Sunday, June 10, 2007

My Response To The Question: Should There Be A Separate Code Of Ethics For School Principals?

Instead of an ethical code, why not seek to hire the ethically fit from the start? As Waldo stated in his essay on Public Administration and Ethics: A Prologue to a Preface, we are
living in a morally complex age. I believe we must insist that individuals who become administrators, whether in a school or other organizations, must also be individuals who have "tolerance for ambiguity." Applying a set of ethics specific to school administrators only layers on another set of rules in a situation silly with rules already.

I believe that there are far too many rules and regulations being implemented in education these days in order to ensure that schools radically transform themselves. It's true that the way we educate our children is out of step with the needs of society in an information age, but will forcing educators to change through ethics and laws really get the results we need? I think we should rather instill a sense of urgency in educators to motivate them to review their own practice, best practices, and research and trust them to do the work necessary to implement school reform.

For the most part, people who become educators have the right heart for the job and want to do what's best for children; that is the price of admission, so to speak, to the education workforce. Do we really need to write that down and insist people adhere to it? They already do. So, if educators already have the "right" frame of mind and motivations for making sure students are successful, I think that we only need to point them in the right direction. Dictating down the line what educators must do, think, and believe in order to be successful removes the professional discretion of educators from the equation; we are asking them to not think for themselves, when that is the essential skill of a knowledge-based economy. Do we really want automatons teaching our children how to think for themselves? It just doesn't make any sense.


  1. allow me to quote my oldest friend NORTON! when his nephew said that something didn't may any sense:

    "Son," he said, placing a comforting arm around the boy's shoulders, "son, you'll find that the older you get, NOTHIN' makes any goddamned sense anymore."

    A less pithy answer to follow 'pon the morrow, should U want one.

  2. Oh, and as tired as I be, I think the answer is NO. There's too much language and paperwork tellin' folken what to do ALREADY. We don't need MORE of it.

  3. actually, I think the problem is that the Powers That Be DO want automatons. Administrators don't want me comin' to them with perfectly logical and reasoned arguements for why I and other teachers refuse to test our children 36 times a year, they want us to simply DO IT. Most administrators are too low on the totem pole to actually change policy in any meaningful way, and so they're caught in the middle between the actual labour force (teachers) who are out there on the front lines DOING the job and the higher ups who rarely go INTO a classroom yet wave magic wands and set policy in stone.

    This whole ethics biz is actually superflous if we DO hire ethical people in the first place.

    In closing, I think there's a LOT better places we can be spending our energy than hair-splitting on this whole ethics biz. It reminds me of the NPR story about the priest who lived basically as a homeless person to assist other homeless people: theological hairsplitting is interesting, yes, but in the end I'm coming to think that it's more important to DO SOMETHING CONSTRUCTIVE than to sit around, a la Star Wars, and "discuss this in committee."

  4. then again, if we DO sit around and discuss it endlessly in committee A) no one gets their hands dirty B) mountains of time can pass by where other work is avoided and C) policy makers can appear to be very concerned by invoking the word "ethics". If we spend 4 months, day in, day out discussing "ethics" it seems like we've got everyone's best interests in mind when, more likely, we're merely trying to control the swarthy horde of people who work for us because we're Afraid of the Mob.

  5. Just from my own limited experience with the school system, all I want is for the administration to allow my son to be with the other kids, and for his teachers to have an open mind and at least try.

  6. I have heard so many horror stories about kids suspended or worse because of administrators lacking flexibility in making judgement calls. One that springs to mind immediately was the girl who got suspended for having a bottle of Midol. Zero tolerance for drugs, you know.

    And Skyler's Dad-- I've got three words for you to use in those situations: "Least Restrictive Environment." It's not just a good idea, it's the law. I doubt I'm telling you anything you don't know already, but don't be afraid to use it.

  7. I agree - for the amount of money that educators get paid in this country, they gotta be doing it because they love doing it, for the children's sake.

  8. In my experience, those calling for ethics guidelines are usually those who don't have ethics. If you already have ethics, you don't need a cheat sheet on how to behave ethically.

    As Johnny and I like to say, "All you have to do is not be a dick."

    That reminds me... I need to do my "Dumbest Question I've Ever Been Asked" post.

  9. Err... just to clarify, the Big Dumb Question was an ethical question. That's why I was reminded that I needed to do that post.

    Don'cha hate it when you say something, and you know what you mean, and you don't realize until later that everybody else probably thought you were saying something completely different?