Thou shalt not

Be a good human, thats what the Alberta Teachers Association, Code of Professional Conduct should say. As I made may may through the list I chuckled at point six. During my technical training in the RAF in England, we had visiting Saudi Arabian Air Force students receiving training from our instructors. The rumour was (which was substantiated by one of my instructors), that the Saudi’s would regularly offer significant amounts of money in exchange for a top grade or the ‘test answers’. Rumour also has it that one even offered his wife, but how much truth there was in that I can’t say. As comical and ludicrous as this sounded (and still sounds) to me, it clearly wasn’t to the members of the Saudi Arabian Air Force. The point I am trying to make here is that no matter what is written down on paper or deemed ethically correct to one, may well be a mute point to another. My students are always asking for tidbits of information that they might find on ‘the test’ but not one yet has offered me money, or worse, their wife. They know that putting a teacher in such a position is the incorrect or inappropriate in modern western culture. As we read through the ATA Code, we regularly encounter personal qualities such as: dignity, respect, nobility and authority; all qualities which we are typically raised being told are expected of us. So, we enter adulthood with what we think are strong values, decent morals; we enter our chosen profession (in this case teaching) to be then give a ‘code of ethics’, or ways in which we should act to remain professional.

The very nature of their being a ‘code’ tells us that there are exceptions who cannot, or will not act in a way that is expected of them. Now, do these exceptions just simply not want to abide by the rules? Do they not hold the same values as their peers? Or did they just make a bad decision in a given situation? The trouble is, decisions are dependant on variables and circumstance which are completely unpredictable. In this TED talk by Damon Horowitz, he discusses the power we have with modern technology to collect data and preempt a persons move or decision based on prior choices. He asks his audience whether this is the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ thing (use the data) to do and gets a divided answer. He suggests we need a “moral operating system” and asks “what is the formula we can use in any situation to determine, what we should do?”, the answer is “there’s not a formula, theres not a simple answer, ethics is hard, ethics requires thinking”. He suggests that we take into account the thought processes of others because we all think differently and “when you think that way, you become more sensitive to, human considerations which are critical to making ethical decisions”. None of us are right, 100% of the time, no matter how hard we try (or think). We make mistakes, we make bad choices, but its up to us to hold an awareness about us that enables us to see perspective. Taking a students money or wife for an exam pass will always be intrinsically and inherently wrong, but thinking about our everyday actions, thinking about what is the right thing to do should always be inherently right “its up to us to figure out what to do”… be a good human.

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