Book of the week: The Ethical Teacher

17th October 2003 at 01:00
The Ethical Teacher
By Elizabeth Campbell
Open University Press pound;18.99

Timely and ground-breaking, this book is primarily concerned with ethical issues within the realities of schooling. Though it is written with reference to a large range of literature, including works from Britain, Australia and Canada, it is aimed at classroom teachers. How do you cope in the face of conflicting demands from the school administration and your pupils?

The first of the three sections discusses moral agency and ethical knowledge, and looks for a broad consensus beyond relativism. While aware of theoretical complexity, it assumes that the good teacher is humane, fair, honest, compassionate, truthful, moderate and concerned for the pupils' welfare.

Lists of core ethical principles have been identified by researchers and in debate and, while there is disagreement about interpretation and application, Elizabeth Campbell assumes it is possible to operate within the generally non-relativist framework.

This is especially so for teachers, as their moral and ethical standards are inherently public. They are observed by pupils, visible to colleagues and open to scrutiny by administrators. So, Campbell argues, ethical knowledge should become more explicit, and professional practice more virtue-based. Ethical complexity should be seen as a form of knowledge rather than as a kind of fog that hangs over the classroom, giving technical procedures pre-eminence, however good or bad.

William K Kay is a senior lecturer in religious education at King's College Londonnbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

Read more in this week's TES Friday magazine

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