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Professional Ethics - Education

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Professional Ethics


American society's concern with the necessity of teaching the importance of good character and ethical/moral decision-making in school is growing. Ethical issues in teaching are often complex and multifaceted, and defy simplistic solutions. Ethics represent aspirational goals, or the maximum or ideal standards set by the profession, and they are enforced by professional associations, national certification boards, and government boards that regulate professions. The essence of teachers' morals and ethics are expressed through both their knowledge about what they want students to achieve, internalize or learn related to principles of right and wrong and how they facilitate such learning as well as their knowledge about what is ethically important for them to do in the course of their professional practices.

It is very common to imagine ethics as a kind of moral calculus for solving ethical dilemmas. All we need is the right formula and all of our problems can be resolved. It would be nice if it were really that simple. In the real world, however, life is complex, ambiguous, and often tragic it does not readily yield to such a calculus. Ethics is not about being right as much as it is about being responsible. We must intend to discover what is right, but we can be mistaken and still be responsible. However, we can do this only if we are prepared to recognize both our own fallibility and our common humanity (Paul, French, & Cranston-Gingras, 2001).

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Until the 1970s, children and youth with disabilities in the United States were summarily excluded from public education. During the 1970s, two landmark cases helped to establish the right to education for students with disabilities. The first case, Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children (PARC) v. Pennsylvania, (1971), was brought on behalf of students with mental retardation in the state of Pennsylvania. This suit charged that students with mental retardation were not receiving public education in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The second case, Mills v. Board of Education (1972), was a class action lawsuit filed by the parents and guardians of children with a range of disabilities including behavioral disturbances, hyperactivity, mental retardation, and physical impairments. Since 1975, this law has undergone numerous amendments and is currently authorized as Public Law 105-17, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Faircloth, 2004).

Purpose of Ethical Codes

According to Pedersen (1997), ethical guidelines are a necessary but not sufficient condition for promoting ethical behavior. Codes of ethics are intended to promote ethical behavior by guiding teachers in good practice, protecting students, and enhancing the profession. Pedersen further noted that the most basic function of an ethics code as educating members about sound ethical conduct, providing a mechanism for professional accountability, and providing a catalyst for improving practice. Recognizing that no ethics code can address every situation,



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