Lecture Notes, Mohamed Sathak AJ College of Engineering, Anna University, DOI/RG PROFESSIONAL ETHICS by Dr. Syed Ibrahim. important role in the field of engineering and in the profession of an engineer. Professional Ethics is a set of standards that describe the professional behavior that is expected in In this tutorial, we will examine the moral and ethical issues. The objectives of this course on ‗Professional Ethics' are: (a) To understand the moral values that ought to guide the Engineering profession,. (b) To resolve the.
|Language:||English, Indonesian, German|
|Genre:||Politics & Laws|
|ePub File Size:||19.86 MB|
|PDF File Size:||17.71 MB|
|Distribution:||Free* [*Registration needed]|
professionalism, professional code of ethics, professional values, service ideal, Professional ethics is a field of applied ethics whose purpose is to define. Professional ethics encompass the personal, and corporate standards of behavior expected by . of British Architects - Code of professional conduct Archived at the Wayback Machine; ^ "Professionalism and Ethics" ( PDF). Compliance and ethics programs serve a critical role in helping to prevent and detect misconduct at and by organizations and to pro- mote ethical business.
Concepts of education: These ideas are not, to be sure, entirely distinct, and it is not unusual for an occupation to be referred to in much the same breath as vocation and profession.
But although both concepts are proteanly resistant to precise formulation, there are nevertheless significant and illuminating tensions, as well as interesting differences of emphases, between them.
First, then, one consequence of regarding a given occupation as a vocation rather than as a profession turns on the idea of significant continuity between occupational role and private values and concerns. Thus, it is common for the incumbents of so-called vocations the ministry, nursing and teaching to regard themselves, rightly or wrongly, as people whose lives are totally given over to the service of others parishioners, patients, pupils in a way that leaves relatively little room for the personal or private—and has, indeed, in the case of more than one vocation precluded any possibility of marriage and family.
In this respect, moreover, even if it should turn out that the time-honoured professions are able enough to match any traditional vocational devotion to service, the idea of profession does seem to be a more impersonally regulated one, and has often been constructed—in the alleged interests of clients—upon very precise separation of professional from personal concerns.
From this perspective, the lawyer or doctor may for reasons of professional detachment precisely seek to avoid that affectively charged concern for the personal welfare of others which is often characteristic of a good nurse, or that devotion to the promulgation of partisan doctrines and values which may be the measure of a good priest. Ironically, this idea of significant vocational continuity between personal and occupational concerns and interests has probably been one reason why traditional vocations have been less well financially rewarded than the professions.
It may even have been feared that raising the salaries of ministers, nurses or teachers would attract the wrong kind of people, those of a mercenary disposition, into the vocations. At all events, there can be little doubt that teaching has often been regarded as a vocation, that it has also been regarded as the kind of occupation which people enter for love rather than money, and that it has also frequently been woefully underpaid. But there are also different ways in which teaching has been regarded as a vocation or, to put it another way, teaching has been liable to diverse vocational comparisons.
On this view, probably deepest entrenched in the traditions of public, grant-maintained and grammar schools, teaching is regarded as a very high calling indeed. This perspective inclines to conceive the teacher as someone who can in principle be looked up to as an exemplar of the very highest culturally enshrined standards and values, and as someone who possesses a range of virtues more than a set of skills.
Here, the contrast between vocational and professional views of teaching comes into sharp relief with respect to the ways in which teachers might attract criticism for failing to live up to the standards of their calling.
One reason for including such views among types of vocationalism, moreover, is that a certain anti-professional stance—as we shall see later in this book—has been a recurring theme of such radicals. This is on the grounds that: Professional conceptions However, although one need not doubt that most contemporary career teachers would readily identify and sympathise with at least some of TEACHING AND EDUCATION 13 these vocational priorities, it is arguable that there has over the years been a marked shift towards conceptions of education and teaching of more professional than vocational temper: There are, moreover, some fairly weighty reasons for this.
For one thing, there are legitimate concerns reinforced perhaps by some of the worst excesses of radical and progressive attitudes in state schooling—about educational accountability to the practical needs and interests of parents, employers and the wider community.
The point is that whereas the cultural custodian view is tailor-made for circumstances of cultural homogeneity in which teachers are required not only to transmit but exemplify a commonly shared set of values or virtues, circumstances of greater cultural heterogeneity and value diversity conspire to render any such conception at best inappropriate and at worst invidious.
The awkward question for teachers enjoined to be custodians of culture and values in a state school in, say, London, Glasgow or Manchester, is likely to be that of precisely whose values they are to transmit: It is for precisely this reason that the question of the neutrality of the teacher, and a corresponding perceived need to develop a conception of professionality which observes a clear line between professional obligations and personal commitments—in the interests, among other things, of avoiding indoctrination—has been a burning issue of post-war liberal philosophy of education.
In this connection, we may first observe an important distinction of modern treatments of this question between restricted and extended professionalism.
The restricted version, however, conceives the skills and contractual obligations of the teacher somewhat more along the lines of trade expertise than professional knowledge—the expertise, one might say, of plumbers and electricians rather than doctors or lawyers.
For the most part, restricted teacher expertise is taken to follow from familiarity with national or local policy guidelines and mastery, probably more in the field than the academy, of technical skills.
The responsibilities of restricted professionals are therefore almost exclusively defined in terms of technical competence, and more or less direct accountability or conformity to the requirements of external authority.
To this extent, although we may still speak of restricted teachers as more or less professional according to their conformity or otherwise to such requirements, restricted professionalism scores poorly on that criterion of occupational autonomy which is often held to be a key ingredient of the professional lives of doctors and lawyers. On this perspective, teachers are to be regarded, along with general practitioners or legal advisors, as possessors of a socially valued specialist expertise which requires lengthy education and training—precisely because teaching requires educated capacities for independent judgement, rather than mere training in obedience to authority.
Thus, just as we might well regard it as unacceptable for politicians or the general public—anyone other than those properly educated in complex issues of medicine and health care—to direct the decisions of doctors on important matters of medical policy and practice, so it could be considered inappropriate for TEACHING AND EDUCATION 15 politicians or employers to dictate to teachers what is or is not worthy of inclusion in the school curriculum, or what kinds of knowledge and skill are crucial for the professional conduct of teaching.
On this view, the teacher should be regarded as someone who, by virtue of a sophisticated professional education, is well qualified to exercise a higher understanding of the nature of learning and pedagogy in meeting the particular and local needs of individual children in particular educational circumstances. Notoriously, however, recent general erosion of professional autonomy, and a marked shift to more centrally prescribed training programmes, has almost certainly been fuelled by mounting contemporary political and public mistrust of what has sometimes seemed an arrogant professional reluctance to acknowledge any public accountability.
In this respect, however, an alternative strategy for bridling professional power, also a familiar feature of the recent political landscape of British and other liberal democracies, has involved surrendering control of professional activities to market forces.
Ironically enough, such strategies for the control of professional monopolies in education and more widely were first proposed, in the form of voucher systems, by educational radicals of the s. But such ideas have been given a more recent neo-liberal lease of life in the form of such proposals as local or devolved management, which make school funding crucially dependent upon attracting parental custom in a climate of educational market competition.
One effect, for example, can be seen in the growing popularity of inservice courses for professionals focused upon more managerial, particularly economic-administrative, aspects of schooling.
Analogies with teaching: Which of these conceptions, one might ask, is correct?
Clearly, the question is unhelpful. One reasonable response is that teaching is assimilable to none of these occupations, it is simply what it is—teaching.
Indeed, the pioneer of post-war educational philosophy, R. Peters, makes this point when he distinguishes education from such other activities as care and therapy: However, as we saw in our initial exploration of the technical, aesthetic and moral dimensions of the activity of teaching, the educational project in which teaching is implicated is clearly a complex matter which might stand to be illuminated by cautious comparisons with some of these occupations.
From this viewpoint, one would venture to suggest that an important lesson about educational professionalism is indeed contained in the custodial insight that the notion of an adulterous teacher is in its own way as professionally questionable as that of a drunken minister. Similarly, few can deny that teaching is an activity which is at least like nursing or midwifery to the extent that it involves a significant dimension of affective care and support; the good teacher is invariably someone who is able to win the confidence and trust of those in his or her charge.
It is also interesting to note that a comparison with midwifery is central to perhaps the first notable western philosophical exploration of educational initiation. Furthermore, even if there are considerable dangers in any overstated comparisons between the teaching world and the business world, there can be no doubt that the management of modern schools is a complex fiscal and administrative matter which may stand to profit so to speak from lessons from the business world.
Moreover, there is much to be said for the view that schools do need to be more mindful than they may formerly have been of the best hopes and aspirations of parents for their children, and to be appropriately accountable to the practical needs and interests of the wider community and economy. What then of the idea that teachers are to be compared to or included in the same category as such time-honoured professionals as doctors and lawyers? Although comparing teachers to doctors and lawyers is no less fraught with hazards than other analogies, I shall argue that the comparison is not entirely inappropriate—and, more importantly, that there is enough to the comparison to sustain a significant discourse of professional ethics with regard to educational practice.
I do think, as we shall see, that there are difficulties about thinking of teaching in the same professional terms as medicine or law.
It seems likely that teachers cannot realistically aspire, even in principle, to quite the same degree of professional autonomy as doctors or lawyers, and one reason for this is that, although the social and economic implications of the educational project seem to be as serious and significant as those of medicine or law, there is not the same degree of asymmetry between professional and lay expertise in the case of teaching as with medicine or law.
Thus, although the general public have no less a vested interest in the state of health and justice than they have in the education of their children, they are less well placed than doctors or lawyers to pronounce authoritatively on the rightness or wrongness of this or that esoteric aspect of medical or legal practice. Moreover, irrespective of expertise, members of the public are in another sense more entitled to their own perspectives in any disagreement with educational professionals.
If, for example, a child is suffering from a serious medical condition for which the only clear remedy is surgical intervention, it would be irrational or irresponsible of a parent to take him or her instead to a faith healer. However, it may be neither irresponsible nor irrational of a parent to reject the verdict of an educational professional on what a child needs by way of knowledge or discipline, in favour of an alternative considered view of human flourishing.
In short, the professional word does not seem as final in the case of education and teaching, as it clearly can be in matters of medical or legal practice—although again the line here is, as I shall also argue, by no means hard and fast.
Moreover, it will be central to the present case that the need for a high degree of ethical sensitivity on the part of educational professionals arises precisely from the essentially contested character of the educational enterprise: For irrespective of any and all reasonable points of comparison between teaching and such other occupations as the priesthood, nursing, social work, plumbing, medicine and commerce, it should also be clear that there are tensions and potential inconsistencies between such comparisons, and that there could be no possible reconciliation of all of them in one coherent conception of educational professionalism.
Moreover, even if it is possible to achieve some kind of general reconciliation of the vocationalism of cultural custodians with more recent conceptions of professionalism, there would still clearly be differences over matters of professional and other authority between any such position and that of educational radicals and progressives, for whom the very language of professionalism seems anathema.
And so on, and so forth. These are some of the issues which we shall need to revisit in the following chapters. What is now required, however, is a closer look—with particular regard to questions of the professional status of education and teaching —at concepts of profession and professionalism as such. Is it appropriate to regard teaching as a profession? It is tempting to suppose that this question is of little moment, if not actually meaningless. For one thing, it might be said with some justice that the line commonly drawn between professions and non-professions is a quite artificial one.
For another, it may be also said with even more justice that an occupation does not have to be regarded as a profession in order to be the focus of moral issues; for that occupation to be, in other words, one to which questions of professional ethics are relevant.
But although I think that there is something to both these claims, I nevertheless think that the question of the professional status of teaching is an important one, and that however we answer it has significant implications for our precise conception of the ethical issues which it characteristically engenders.
Indeed, we are already able to see from the last chapter that different ways of conceptualising teaching—as a vocation like priesthood or nursing, a profession like medicine, or a trade like plumbing—can have significant implications for thinking about the character and extent of the moral and other responsibilities of teachers.
Hence, in this chapter, we shall attempt to sketch a rough-and-ready account of what it might mean for an occupation to qualify for the status of profession—an account which, moreover, emphasises the centrality of ethical or moral concerns and considerations.
And subsequently, in Chapter 3, we shall try to see how the occupation of teaching or the practice of education stands with respect to this account.
In this sense, professionality and professionalism are the requirements of a particular class or category of occupation which is usually taken to include doctors and lawyers, may well embrace teachers and clergymen and other members of socalled vocations —but traditionally excludes plumbers, joiners and other tradesmen.
It may be doubted, all the same, whether there is much substance to such general categorial distinctions between types of occupations. Indeed, it seems to be a fairly common sociological view that such distinctions reflect little more than differences of social or class status —perhaps a relic of medieval guild or other restricted practices. Indeed, on a radically sceptical version of this view—which we shall shortly examine in a specifically educational version—the so-called professions are to be distinguished from other occupations almost exclusively in status seeking and self-serving terms.
It therefore seems worth asking what might have served to distinguish those occupations commonly regarded as professions from other occupational categories.
It is also sometimes said that some occupations— such as medicine doctoring and the law—count as full professions by dint of fulfilling most or all of these criteria, whereas others—teaching or nursing perhaps—count merely as semi-professions 2 by virtue of satisfying only some of them.
Though, as we shall see, the force of this distinction may turn in part on whether the criteria are meant to be descriptive or prescriptive. At all events, it is clear that an ethical dimension of professional practice features quite explicitly in the third criterion—as well as implicitly in others; moreover, once we begin to explore conceptual connections between the criteria, it should become clear that all are implicated in the ethical in ways which serve to lend a distinct character to professional as opposed to other occupational concerns.
The ethical dimensions of professional engagement How, then, do we begin to put all of this to work in distinguishing the idea of profession from other occupations and professional from other occupational concerns? We could start with a very basic observation about professional practice; namely, that it is precisely and primarily, like any trade, a matter of intelligent practice. But one difference upon which a distinction between profession and trade might here be said to turn is—as indicated in point ii above—that professional training cannot be solely a matter of hands-on apprenticeship in the manner of carpentry or hairdressing; a surgeon or a doctor is rightly required to have mastered a good deal of complex —perhaps scientific—knowledge, information, theory and hypothesis before he or she is allowed to practise on patients.
Moreover, there would appear to be a link -though by no means a straightforward one —between the theory implicatedness of professional practice and the need for professional autonomy as specified in point v above. Indeed, while it is because the professional is liable to encounter novel problems and dilemmas to which there are not established or cut-and-dried technical answers that he or she requires thorough acquaintance with the best which has been thought and said on such potential difficulties, professional theory is by the same token more often advisory than precisely prescriptive—and responsible professional decision depends in a large part on the quality of personal deliberation and reflection.
So v is connected to ii mainly via the idea that although the professional needs to act in the light of independent thought, this must mean thought informed by principles of intelligent professional practice. But now, in so far as thorough mastery of the theories, principles and skills presupposed to effective professional practice is likely to be a sine qua non of admission to full professional status, point iv would seem to be linked to ii —for, to be sure, it is often regarded as crucial to fixing the boundaries of what shall be counted as acceptable conduct, and to ensuring control over standards, that professions should be organised to restrict entry and deal with professional ineptitude; the British General Medical Council is an example of a professional organisation established to achieve these goals for the medical profession.
All the same, this hardly serves to identify what is distinctive of professional organisation—since there were formerly guilds for achieving these ends for trades. The key idea regarding professional organisation would seem to relate more to the consideration that mastery of theories, principles and skills cannot be sufficient for fitness to practise, since it is quite possible—indeed, too often happens—that a professional with proper and adequate theoretical knowledge and skill nevertheless behaves inappropriately towards a patient or client.
It is this consideration which brings us more directly to the idea expressed in point iii that there is an important ethical or moral ingredient to professional organisation, whereby someone may be judged unfit to practise professionally because, despite their possession of relevant theories and skills, they lack appropriate values, attitudes or motives.
On this view, any profession worthy of the name ought to be governed by a code of professional ethics which clearly identifies professional obligations and responsibilities by reference to the rights of clients or patients. What is a code of professional ethics? From this point of view, doctors are enjoined to eschew abuse of their power or authority for the financial, sexual or other exploitation of patients.
Thus stated, the idea may be regarded as a notable anticipation of the basic theme of a much later influential moral theory which claims that one should always treat people as ends in themselves rather than as means. Although we should not for a moment deny that there are virtuous tradesmen or salespersons, or that the moral dimension of service to others is often acknowledged in nonprofessional occupations, it is arguably not as centrally implicated in such spheres as it is in professional practice—or, if it is, this might well be a reason for elevating what have hitherto been regarded as trades to the status of professions.
For one thing, although a builder renowned for the effectiveness of his skills may also be honest and fair, he is not less likely to be highly rated qua builder on the grounds that he shortchanges or sleeps with his clients—whereas these would be reasons for regarding doctors, lawyers or teachers as bad exemplars of their respective occupations. Again, whereas a good professional is one who is scrupulous in observing and meeting what he or she takes to be the exact needs of patients—giving, as it were, full value for money—the automobile or snake oil salesman of the year might just be the one who manages to sell the shoddiest goods for the highest profit to the largest number of gullible customers although a good salesman is for purely commercial reasons also likely to want to avoid a reputation for this.
Thus one might conclude that, whereas a good tradesman or salesperson is first and foremost someone who is procedurally skilled— irrespective of any other virtues—a good professional has also to be someone who possesses, in addition to specified theoretical or technical expertise, a range of distinctly moral attitudes, values and motives designed to elevate the interests and needs of clients, patients or pupils above self-interest.
On such a view, any full professional initiation must require, alongside training in theoretical and technical knowledge, some explicit instruction in the moral presuppositions of professional involvement—possibly extending to systematic initiation into current formal theories of deontic usage. In the event, there appear to be different ways in which those responsible for professional education have recently sought to acknowledge and accommodate the ethical dimensions of professional engagement.
Second, as we shall shortly consider more closely, the competence models of training which have recently overtaken professional preparation in such occupational spheres as teaching and social work aim to combine instruction in the technical skills of good practice with the cultivation of a range of attitudes and values more often than not apparently secondary to the specification of technical skills reflecting the top-down decisions on what is or is not acceptable in the way of proper professional conduct of central and local authority guidelines.
In short, either professional ethics is conceived as an extra theoretical component in courses of professional education, or the ethical aspects of professionalism are reduced to just so many extra practical competences to be quasi-technically acquired through training. Some attention to the only criterion of professionalism which we have not yet considered, however, may serve to cast suspicion on both these ways of incorporating the ethical into the professional.
On the face of it, criterion i above—that professions provide an important public service—seems trivial to the point of vacuity. After all, there could hardly be any occupation which does not count as an important public service in some circumstance or other. Indeed, if my kitchen is flooded because of a burst water pipe, it is likely to be a more urgent matter that there is a plumber near to hand than that there is a doctor or lawyer in the vicinity. So the first criterion clearly stands in need of some filling out if it is going to do much in the way of serious conceptual work.
One possible way of giving greater content to this dimension of professionalism, however, is to recognise that the services provided by professionals —adequate health care, legal access, educational provision, and so on—appear to constitute human necessities of a kind that the services of a hairdresser, joiner, electrician or builder do not. Of course, we should probably distinguish here between different kinds of necessity: But beyond problems of house-less heads, unfed sides and looped and windowed raggedness, human flourishing is also clearly liable to be undermined by the absence of an adequate health service, educational or judicial system—or what we might call civil necessities.
Indeed, it is hardly an exaggeration to characterise access to such services or their lack as life or death matters: In this connection, it is significant that the kind of services that professionals are in business to provide have increasingly come to be regarded as human rights; thus, just as post-Enlightenment philosophers have been prone to speak of basic human rights to life, liberty and freedom of thought and association, so many of the services now under the control and direction of the more or less established traditional professions—health care, legal aid, arguably education, and so on—are apt to be characterised as welfare rights.
And, while the moral and metaphysical status of rights continues to be a matter of serious philosophical dispute, there can be no doubt that talking of rights to education, health care and legal access seems to make more sense than talk of rights to good plumbing, hairdressing, car maintenance or an annual holiday abroad.
Indeed, as already noted, perhaps the best philosophical handle we are likely to secure on the righthood of health care, education and legal redress is in terms of a notion of what is necessarily or indispensably conducive to overall human flourishing; whereas it is, one might say, merely contingent to such flourishing whether one has a new car, a Swiss watch or a decent manicure, it is something close to a necessary truth—something true, as some philosophers would say, in all possible worlds—that human life per se is bound to be impoverished in circumstances where disease, injustice and ignorance are rife and their remedies in short supply.
It is presumably in the spirit of some such consensus that Aristotle4 maintained we deliberate in practical matters about the means rather than the ends of action; thus, in principle at least, the physician deliberates not about whether but how he should heal, the lawyer not about whether but about how he should promote justice, and so on.
But, of course, in another sense—a sense which is precisely connected with our uncertainties about appropriate means in just such spheres—it is exactly about these otherwise agreed preconditions of human flourishing that we do deliberate. Thus, though no sane person could doubt that it is a bad thing to be diseased, oppressed or ignorant, very sane and sensible people do debate about what constitutes genuine or adequate education, justice or health care.
Again, we may raise the point about the contentiousness of professional as distinct from other concerns by noting that although we can attach real sense to the idea of a philosophy of law, health or education, we should be hard put to make much of a going concern of any philosophy of plumbing, hairdressing or cooking—and this is precisely because serious questions arise in the former but not in the latter cases about what these concepts actually mean.
Professions as moral projects Since professional services purport to conduce to human flourishing via the promotion of health, legal entitlement, social security or whatever, they are philosophically problematic in the manner of moral concepts—precisely because they are themselves moral projects; thus, professionals are from the outset involved in the practice of activities and endeavours whose ends and purposes are matters of genuine ethical controversy.
Appreciation of the ethical, in short, must lie at the heart of any professional understanding and deliberation worthy of the name. But if we are right in taking this to be a direct implication of our enhanced construal of the first criterion of professionalism, it must have consequences for our understanding of other criteria.
Consider, first of all, criterion ii: But aside from the consideration already adduced that any idea of a straightforward link between theory and professional practice is itself problematic—since competing theories may well lay claim to our allegiance in a given professionally problematic situation —the very idea of professional theory seems prone to ambiguity.
Clearly, however, principled reflection on such perspectives is not theoretical in anything like the same sense as natural or social scientific theory; indeed, in the spirit of an important distinction pioneered by Aristotle,5 we may observe that what is here called theory is often enough a matter for normative or evaluative rather than scientific or theoretical reflection, focused on the pursuit of what is good rather than upon the discovery of what is true.
Again, as we shall later try to show, this is not to endorse any strict postHumean distinction between fact and value—for clearly human values and the success of our projects must be in some sense influenced by considerations about how things are in a world independent of our wills; but, because human goals and aspirations are often practically inconsistent, the evaluative or normative is considerably underdetermined by the evidential in human affairs and inferential relations between theoretical or truth-focused reflection and evaluative deliberation are far from straightforward.
Thus, to take a possible educational example, whatever past policy-makers may have thought, it would not follow from evidence that some children are innately more intelligent than others that one should devote a larger share of available educational resources to the more intelligent—for we might have cause on the basis of such evidence to argue in any of at least three ways: But just as educational deliberation involves highly complex interplay between the evidential and the evaluative, so it appears on closer scrutiny do forms of theoretical reflection in such areas of professional concern as medicine and law.
Hence, we may include among fundamental professional questions for example: But though these are questions to which the facts of the matter are clearly relevant, and upon which theory and evidence may be brought to bear, they cannot be decided by the application of theory in this sense in any straightforward instrumental or technical way.
First, consider the cruder competence conceptions of professional preparation. Whereas competence conceptions of nonprofessional trades and services are usually little more than lists of skills to be mastered, competence models of professional training, especially in such areas as education and social work—where there has been much central pressure to adopt them—have generally acknowledged both the significance of theory for professional practice and the need for some kind of moral preparation via the cultivation of right attitudes and values.
Nevertheless, it is common for such models to conceive professional expertise as a matter of the acquisition of a kind of technology—of a repertoire of skills based upon the findings of value-neutral social-scientific research—to which some notion of the cultivation of right interpersonal attitudes and values is added as an apparent afterthought.
Indeed, since it is the whole point of a competence model to try to identify uncontroversial skills and attitudes which are likely to be needed by any professional come what may, it is hard to see how such a model could proceed otherwise.
But from what has already been said about the essential contestability of the goals of most professional conduct, it seems implausible to view professional expertise in this technicist way—and, as we shall see, it is rare to find anything much in the way of detailed specification of value-free technical skills in lists of professional competences for teachers.
What one more often finds are very imprecise indications of areas of professional concern which are highly value-laden: Indeed, skills of teaching and discipline appear to be context-dependent to the extent that what counts as such a skill on one educational conception might not so count on another. Moreover, lists of professional attitudes and values—honesty, devotion to duty, respect for others—are also offered as though there are completely uncontroversial and agreed interpretations of such qualities and dispositions.
Moreover, in pretending to a professional consensus which does not really exist, it discourages healthy professional disagreement about aims and methods, which is vital both to the development of professional autonomy—that mature independence of judgement mentioned in criterion v —and to wider informed debate about matters of general public concern.
But is this not precisely a case for the introduction into programmes of professional preparation of specific professional ethics courses in which ethical specialists can explore with trainee professionals the complexities of professional dilemmas? To be sure, since much is likely to turn here upon the nature of such courses—particularly perhaps upon their relationship to other parts of the professional curriculum—the idea of such specific ethical components should not perhaps be condemned outright.
But there can also be little doubt that such ways of dealing with the ethical implications of professional involvement are liable to be distortive or misleading in a not entirely dissimilar way to the reductive strategy of competence models.
First, for example, the not infrequent curricular dissociation of such courses from the more theoretical or technical parts of professional training may serve to reinforce the idea that the latter are valueneutral and that ethical problems arise in professional contexts only in relation to a more restricted set of concerns affecting the rights of patients or other clients; however, we have already seen reason to doubt that this is so, since all aspects of professional conduct— theories and skills as well as contractual obligations and responsibilities—are value-laden in ethically relevant ways.
Indeed, one of the problems about courses of professional ethics which operate ancillary to the theoretically or technically orientated parts of professional programmes is that they may be restricted to consideration of those more contractual aspects of professional development of a kind emphasised in codes of professional ethics. Even so, this raises further awkward questions about what need there might be for any separate course in professional ethics over and above what should otherwise be contained in a programme of professional education and training concerned with initiating trainees into the complexities —including, by implication, any ethical dilemmas—likely to arise in a given form of professional life.
And if it is now replied that a course in professional ethics—some sort of formal introduction to the main past and present theories of ethics—is required to equip professionals with the means to clarify, systematise, articulate or justify their response to a given professional dilemma, it is still not at all clear how this would precisely serve such professional purposes.
There can certainly be little doubt that some past moral philosophers have entertained highly instrumental conceptions of moral enquiry as primarily concerned to identify specific modes of moral deliberation apt for the quasi-technical solution of moral dilemmas. There cannot be much doubt that the principal architects of utilitarianism were driven by some such conception of moral enquiry—and, nearer our own time, some of the non-cognitivist heirs of Kant seem to have held an essentially problemsolving view of moral deliberation.
Whatever the appeal of such crude instrumental or technicist conceptions of moral enquiry as a rational procedure apt for the solution of moral problems, however, they should be resisted. Such perspectives on the nature of moral dilemma almost certainly rest on serious misconceptions of the causes and sources of such dilemmas in our lives; indeed, to put the matter at its most basic, if a problem did turn out to be resolvable in the way in which some moral theorists have supposed, that could only be because the problem was, after all, a technical rather than a genuine moral problem.
In fact, several different but connected dangers hove into view over the possible exploration of formal theories of ethics in relation to professional dilemmas. But, consequently, if it is given as a reason for teaching formal ethical theories to professionals as would sometimes appear that they need to be equipped with resources for the principled justification of their conduct, then there is a distinct danger—in so far as almost any conduct may be justified in the terms of some ethical theory or other—of moral deliberation degenerating into expedient casuistry or rhetoric.
And if it is now protested that one of the main aims of a professional ethics course should be to encourage the principled fidelity of students to one particular conception of moral problem solving—Kantian deontology, utilitarianism, virtue theory or whatever—rather than the adoption of a promiscuous pick-and-mix approach for reasons of personal convenience, one may reply that it is nothing short of bizarre to suppose that it might be a reasonable goal of any such course to produce professionals whose ethical reasoning was moulded in such an inflexible way.
The problem with such classical analyses of the mechanics of moral deliberation as Kantian deontology and utilitarianism, of course, is not so much that they are mistaken as that they represent partial accounts of the logic of moral discourse. Thus, utilitarianism is not wrong because we never argue utilitarianly—there are bound to be occasions upon which sane and sensible people will put the reduction of harm or pain above the observance of absolute principle—it is only mistaken in maintaining that the promotion of happiness or the reduction of suffering is our only criterion of moral deliberation; likewise, deontology is not mistaken in claiming that moral argument involves obedience to principle—there will be many occasions upon which it is appropriate to put observance of absolute principle even above the reduction of harm or pain—it only errs in holding that such observance is our only moral criterion.
But in that case it is natural to ask where and when it is appropriate to reason utilitarianly or deontologically. And the only general answer to this question is that this has to be determined contextually.
The key players in major moral debates over such crucial questions of individual and social human well-being as abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia and divorce are not deontologists, utilitarians or other professional ethicists but the advocates of often fine-grained competing systems of evaluative priority such as Catholic Christians, Fabian socialists, liberal humanists, free-marketers and Darwinian evolutionists—and, of course, ordinary pre-theoretical moral agents.
Of course, these are people who often argue deontologically and utilitarianly—but on the basis of rival interpretations of principle and utility embedded in and conditioned by quite different conceptions of human flourishing. It has been the persistent theme of a motley alliance of communitarians, post-analytical social philosophers, virtue theorists, ethical realists and feminists that enlightenment ethics—by aspiring to prescind processes of moral deliberation from the contexts of evaluative priority which fix the moral horizons of socio-culturally attached human agents—has seriously distorted our understanding of moral life.
From this viewpoint, significant moral disagreements reflect differences of culturally conditioned social practice enshrining rival conceptions of human well-being or flourishing which admit of no neutral or independent rational arbitration.
But it is not necessary that it be so construed—and, indeed, we are not normally inclined to infer from the fact of rival value perspectives that one is as morally good as any other; to take a rather worn example, Nazi war criminals are not generally exonerated from their crimes against humanity on the ground of their allegiance to a different value system.
So the fact that there is no value-free process of moral deliberation which might enable us to decide from some elevated position of neutral rationality between the claims of competing moral perspectives does not mean that there are no criteria at all on which we might largely agree that the ideas and actions of Nazis or Klansmen are beyond the moral pale. There may be much disagreement about what exactly these criteria are—but this is as often as not against a background of civilised agreement that certain forms of conduct are downright wicked.
The point is more that intelligent exchange between individuals who have been thoroughly initiated into traditions of reflection with developed resources for addressing moral issues offers a better model of the nature of moral ratiocination than the application of a moral algorithm or ethical decision procedure developed according to some view from nowhere. Indeed, this point is worth emphasising in the light of contemporary pressure to technicise professional expertise.
It cannot be doubted, of course, that professional training in such areas as medicine and law involves the acquisition of often complex skills and techniques; doctors and nurses may be required to utilise state-of-the-art hardware, and lawyers, teachers and social workers will often require quite sophisticated levels of administrative, organisational and procedural skill.
I believe that there is hardly a better example of this than the way in which matters of curriculum design and implementation—especially in the wake of recent national curriculum developments—have lately been made to appear a matter of specialist knowledge and skill acquisition and the sole preserve of such educational experts as curriculum authorities and teachers. In fact, however, such specialist techne invariably amounts to little more than the repackaging of commonplaces about knowledge, understanding and learning in a form of impenetrable professional jargon which serves mainly to avoid serious engagement with genuine evaluative issues of general public concern about the nature of educational provision.
This on a broader social, political and moral front has a twofold antidemocratic effect: But matters that are technical need not be difficult, and matters that are difficult may be all the more so precisely because they are neither technical nor susceptible of technicisation; indeed, the difficulties of moral life are a case in point—they are difficult precisely because they require the kind of sensitivity, experience and fine judgement which cannot be captured or codified in the terms of some technical system.
But from this perspective any expertise which might assist a teacher, for example, to engage in useful professional reflection about the curriculum, or make wise decisions about the educational development of his or her pupils, seems radically misconceived as the acquisition of some incomprehensible quasitechnical jargon of curriculum development—perhaps combined with some pseudo-moral technology purportedly apt for the solution of ethical dilemmas. The effective professional educationalist is not someone who speaks a language of teaching and learning which his or her pupils and their parents cannot understand; on the contrary, he or she is someone who—by virtue of deeper professional reflection on diverse conceptions of the point and purpose of education and wider practical experience of particular problems of teaching and learning— can clearly communicate to parents, in a language which they are able to understand, what exactly the evaluative and practical difficulties are in the particular circumstances which affect their child, and who can also make a case for a reasonable set of evaluative and practical priorities in these circumstances.
This is because any meaningful professional language of education and teaching should be significantly continuous with the ordinary experience of teaching and learning as essentially pretheoretical and non-technical notions; indeed, once educationalists and teachers begin to speak of teaching and learning as technical concepts we may be sure that something has gone awry. But we start to get rather ahead of ourselves. Indeed, someone might protest that it rather begs the question—in a chapter concerned to explore a concept of professionalism which might be used as a yardstick to judge teaching by—to employ examples drawn from educational practice in the very definition of that concept.
The chapters to follow, then, will be concerned with a deeper exploration—precisely in relation to education and teaching— of the various relations between ethical or moral deliberation and professional practice. It is important to emphasise here that this sense is focused upon the idea that enterprises such as medicine, law and arguably education are implicated in questions and considerations of a particular ethical or moral character which are not to the forefront of, for instance, plumbing, joinery, auto-repair, wholesale or retail and hairdressing,1 although they are also not well typified by the more intimate personal transactions into which individuals may enter with their religious confessors or psychotherapists despite the fact that such relationships will also invariably exhibit clear professional dimensions.
It may therefore be wise at this point to head off several possible kinds or sources of misunderstanding of this basic distinction. The first would rest on the charge of elitism—of regarding some occupations, such as medicine, law or teaching, as of greater social importance than others. However, this charge would appear vulnerable to immediate conceptual difficulties, not only in the present instance, but generally.
In the first place, of course, it makes little sense to regard some occupations as more important as such than others. Still, a second shot at this complaint might claim that any such response perversely or obtusely misses the point.
But this, too, seems less than coherent. In the first place, how could occupational distinctions as such have any consequences whatsoever for their social standing—unless the distinctions actually registered features upon which social and economic differentials might be constructed? The objection, in short, has things the wrong way round: But second, it is not clear that the broad distinctions here observed follow the also divergent fault lines of social esteem and economic reward.
In terms of our distinctions, some occupations apt for consideration as professions, such as religious ministry and teaching, probably attract far less social esteem or economic advantage than others which are not on our account professions such as, for example, those of a fashion designer or professional footballer.
There are also callings which might, for present purposes, fall into very much the same sort of occupational category—such as airline pilot, chauffeur and bus driver—which are subject to significant social and economic differentials.
Compare also differing social perceptions of restaurant waitress and airline hostess—occupations which nevertheless do not differ much for present purposes. Moreover, of considerable and sensitive present concern, it is notorious that different kinds and levels of teaching and education have long been a source of marked social and economic differentials—the basis, indeed, of a discernible educational pecking order.
Yet all of these may, for the purposes of our argument, be regarded as belonging to one teaching profession. If anything, indeed, it would be entirely consistent with the key thesis of this work to regard the activities and concerns of primary and early years teachers as more professional in the present sense than those of many academics in universities.
It is not just that there is evidence that some of the attitudes underlying just noticed educational prejudices are now changing, particularly in view of overdue contemporary recognition of the enormous importance and complexity of early years education, but that in so far as they are involved more if not entirely in research than teaching, many university academics are hardly typical of professionals in our sense at all.
Moreover, although we are wont to fix this difference in terms of the special place of ethical issues and considerations in the professional lives of doctors, lawyers and arguably teachers, this is not to deny that there are crucial ethical dimensions to other activities; plumbers, airline pilots and footballers, no less than doctors, lawyers and teachers, can all be more or less virtuous and ply their trades more or less honestly and responsibly.
It is, however, with certain significant differences of ethical character between human occupations—rather than with differences of power, class, social standing or economic edge—that this present work is primarily concerned. To this end, it will be the concern of later chapters of this work to try to give more precise substance to these differences—to identify the principal respects in which the peculiar ethical and moral nature of practical professional engagements serves to define the distinctive character and structure of professional expertise and deliberation.
In this connection, it seems promising to pursue two main strategies. First, we shall examine teaching and education in relation to the general criteria of profession explored in the previous chapter, with particular regard to how they score so to speak on this familiar scale of professional measurement. Second, however, we shall briefly examine the arguments of those who would want to claim that teaching and education are precisely not appropriately compared to such established professions as medicine and law—or who would argue, still more radically, that professional status or professionalisation are not anyway respectable or legitimate occupational aspirations for teachers or anyone else.
Teaching, education and professional criteria To begin, how do teaching and education measure on the criteria of professionalism considered in Chapter 2?
On the face of it, this might seem to be a straightforward matter of employing the five criteria as a checklist against which education and teaching might be passed or failed.
In the first instance, any such procedure rides somewhat roughshod over an important distinction between the prescriptive and descriptive aspects of professional normativity.
Thus, for example, although it may well be that the various commonly cited criteria of a profession all serve to identify desirable features or qualities of professional life, there might be purely contingent historical reasons why such features have failed to achieve full institutional recognition or embodiment.
Moreover, if organisation analogous to that of the British General Medical Council is taken to be evidence of such professional regulation, it may also be that education and teaching score better in some places than others; thus, whereas bodies designed for much of these professional purposes certainly exist in some quarters—the Scottish General Teaching Council may serve as an example—they are elsewhere either in embryo or not as yet conceived.
There are also, as we have already seen, potentially awkward questions about proper interpretation of the criteria. Even in the case of professional organisation, it has been questioned whether the Scottish Teaching Council provides an appropriate or adequate example of a truly autonomous professional body.
Indeed, related considerations are clearly going to affect the more general question of how well teaching and education score on the matter of the autonomy of individual professionals. But it is possible to respond to any such objection to regarding teaching as a profession in either or a mixture of two ways.
Examples[ edit ] For example, a lay member of the public should not be held responsible for failing to act to save a car crash victim because they could not give an appropriate emergency treatment.
Though, they are responsible for attempting to get help for the victim. This is because they do not have the relevant knowledge and experience. In contrast, a fully trained doctor with the correct equipment would be capable of making the correct diagnosis and carrying out appropriate procedures. Failure of a doctor to not help at all in such a situation would generally be regarded as negligent and unethical.
Though, if a doctor helps and makes a mistake that is considered negligent and unethical, there could be egregious repercussions. An untrained person would only be considered to be negligent for failing to act if they did nothing at all to help and is protected by the "Good Samaritan" laws if they unintentionally caused more damage and possible loss of life.
A business may approach a professional engineer to certify the safety of a project which is not safe. While one engineer may refuse to certify the project on moral grounds, the business may find a less scrupulous engineer who will be prepared to certify the project for a bribe , thus saving the business the expense of redesigning. Separatists argue that professions should be allowed to go beyond such confines when they judge it necessary. This is because they are trained to produce certain outcomes which may take moral precedence over other functions of society.
This would be a disrespect of the patient's autonomy , as it denies the patient information that could have a great impact on his or her life. This would generally be seen as morally wrong.
However, if the end of improving and maintaining health is given a moral priority in society, then it may be justifiable to contravene other moral demands in order to meet this goal.Second, as we shall shortly consider more closely, the competence models of training which have recently overtaken professional preparation in such occupational spheres as teaching and social work aim to combine instruction in the technical skills of good practice with the cultivation of a range of attitudes and values more often than not apparently secondary to the specification of technical skills reflecting the top-down decisions on what is or is not acceptable in the way of proper professional conduct of central and local authority guidelines.
The key idea regarding professional organisation would seem to relate more to the consideration that mastery of theories, principles and skills cannot be sufficient for fitness to practise, since it is quite possible—indeed, too often happens—that a professional with proper and adequate theoretical knowledge and skill nevertheless behaves inappropriately towards a patient or client. This is particularly true of professions in which they have almost a complete monopoly on a particular area of knowledge.
It is also sometimes said that some occupations— such as medicine doctoring and the law—count as full professions by dint of fulfilling most or all of these criteria, whereas others—teaching or nursing perhaps—count merely as semi-professions 2 by virtue of satisfying only some of them. Although all these topics have interested me throughout my professional educational life, the path to this book can be traced back to an attempt in the summer of to assemble a full-length exploration of the moral basis of teaching and educational practice.
In short, it is not clear that the weaker critiques identify anything more than failures of individual attitude and institutional structure which might, notwithstanding, be susceptible of revision and improvement through better professional education and some institutional reform. In this connection, it is significant that the kind of services that professionals are in business to provide have increasingly come to be regarded as human rights; thus, just as post-Enlightenment philosophers have been prone to speak of basic human rights to life, liberty and freedom of thought and association, so many of the services now under the control and direction of the more or less established traditional professions—health care, legal aid, arguably education, and so on—are apt to be characterised as welfare rights.
Other volumes examine issues relevant to particular professions, including those which have hitherto received little attention, such as social work, the insurance industry and accountancy. The responsibilities of restricted professionals are therefore almost exclusively defined in terms of technical competence, and more or less direct accountability or conformity to the requirements of external authority. Thus, though no sane person could doubt that it is a bad thing to be diseased, oppressed or ignorant, very sane and sensible people do debate about what constitutes genuine or adequate education, justice or health care.