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Assignment #2 Ethics Assignment Option #1

Carmen Pedersen, Irina Nielsen, Chelsea Santucci and Nicole Saindon

University of Calgary

EDUC 525 Ethics and Law in Education

Instructor: Dr. Donlevy

November 3rd, 2017


Ethical Dilemma:

Miss. James is a 30 year old teacher at William Aberhart High School in Calgary and

who has been teaching grade 10 science for the past 4 years.

John Smith is a grade 10 student in Miss James’ science class. In the recent parent-teacher

conference John’s mother revealed to Miss James that John’s father is in prison and she is

working 2 jobs to provide for her family.

John has also been through a recent growth spurt and is often seen wearing clothes that are too

small for him. Miss James has questioned John on his lack of appropriate clothing and John has

assured her that his mother will go shopping soon.

On a Friday afternoon Miss James visits Mountain Warehouse in her local shopping centre to

buy a winter coat. While browsing, Miss James notices John. On her way to say hi, she sees John

put a fleece and some warm socks under his hoodie and then sees him walk out of the shop.

Deontological Ethics:

Deontological ethics is the act of doing the right thing in regards to the obligation to

one’s duty, regardless of the consequences suffered by both parties. This approach to ethics

applies the “Golden Rule” principle, meaning that one treats others how they wish to be treated.

However, in applying the “Golden Rule,” one is obliged by the Categorical Imperative, meaning

that one must make the same decision in accordance to their duty for every situation, even in

regards to their own actions (Donlevy, 2017). Thus, ensuring the grace of their obligation and

duty in all situations.


The proposed decision to Miss. James’ ethical dilemma in regard to the Deontological

school of thought, is that she must report John Smith to the manager of Mountain Warehouse as

John is committing theft.

According to the Canadian Criminal Code Theft is defined by “every one commits theft who

fraudulently and without colour of right takes, or fraudulently and without colour of right

converts to his use or to the use of another person, anything, whether animate or inanimate, with

intent (a) to deprive, temporarily or absolutely, the owner of it, or a person who has a special

property or interest in it, of the thing or of his property or interest in it” (Criminal Code, R.S.C.,

1985, c. C-46). Thus, Miss. James holds an obligation to her duty to the Code of Professional

Conduct, by following the law and reporting the theft to the proper authorities.

To whom or to what do I owe a duty in this decision?

Miss. James holds a professional duty to the Alberta Teachers Association Code of

Professional Conduct, in relation to the pupil, item 5, “The teacher may not divulge information

about a pupil received in confidence or in the course of professional duties except as required by

law or where, in the judgment of the teacher, to do so is in the best interest of the pupil” (The

Alberta Teachers’ Association, 2004). Miss James also holds a duty to the Code of Professional

Conduct in regards to item 18, “the teacher acts in a manner which maintains the honour and

dignity of the profession” (The Alberta Teachers’ Association, 2004).

Does the proposed decision meet the Golden Rule condition?

Yes the proposed decision meets the Golden Rule condition. The Golden Rule states

“One should do unto others as one would have them do unto themselves,” therefore, Miss. James
would expect to be held liable if she committed theft due to her breaking the law and denying her

obligations to the Teachers’ Code of Professional Conduct.

Does the proposed decision meet the Categorical Imperative condition?

Yes the proposed decision meets the Categorical Imperative condition because Miss.

James is obligated by her duty to the Code of Professional Conduct, therefore must report the

theft committed by James, as it is breaking the law. In following the Teachers’ Code of

Professional Conduct, we assume that if Miss. James was committing a theft, she would know

that she is criminally liable for her actions, thus she must be held accountable and suffer the

consequences of her actions.

Regardless of the consequences, is there a principle which must be adhered to in this case?

Yes there is a principle to adhere too: one must always follow the law, therefore do not

commit the act of theft. As educators we have the responsibility to teach our students how to

think critically and to become ethical citizens; thus, one must follow the law.

Postmodern Ethics:
Postmodern ethics argues that every individual has the impulse to act ethically or morally

based on their relationship with others, and it is the impulse itself which carries the morality of

the individual within it. This moral impulse “is not derived from a code, or prescribed ethical

values, or principles but from the very fact that she or he exists as a human being in relationship

with the Other” (EDUC 525, 2017 Oct 24, Powerpoint #12, Slide 38). We are assuming that the

postmodern teacher would be morally compelled to act in the interest of the student because that
is the teacher’s immediate reaction due to the human relationship that exists between the teacher

and that student.

What is my immediate intuitive reaction to the ethical decision I face?

The immediate intuitive reaction of our group members was to assist the student

in some way, and because of that we assume the immediate reaction of Miss James would

be equivalent. The most immediate reaction would be to not report the student’s crime

but to help the student receive appropriate clothing by way of direct contact with the

student. While the teacher must respect the student’s dignity and consider their

circumstances, Miss James is bound by the Professional Code of Conduct in other ways

that are more important to the dilemma. Particularly sections 5 and 18, where a teacher is

bound to share their knowledge with the appropriate authorities since the guardian(s) of

the child are unable to provide the necessities of life which has led to theft on behalf of

the student. The child and their family would hopefully be provided the least intrusive

intervention in order to assist with their difficult circumstances, while still abiding by the

ATA’s Professional Code of Conduct.

What is the moral urge I feel when faced with this decision?

We assume that our moral urge when faced with this decision is to act in the best interest

of the student, which would be to assist them in acquiring the appropriate clothing due to the fact

that it is a basic human necessity. If the student lacks clothing, they will be unable to flourish in

other areas of their life, such as in school.

Am I acting free of preconceptions and making a choice within that freedom?


In making a decision, there should be no preconceived opinion that is not based on reason

or evidence and was not decided beforehand. We are assuming that Miss James did not

preconceive her decision because it is out of the ordinary to assume that you will witness a

student stealing in order to clothe themselves. Furthermore, the urge to assist the student is a

natural impulse or reaction as a human being.

Am I prepared to act within the context of the situation knowing full well that this is my
decision and that I alone am responsible for it and all the consequences that flow from it?

By making the decision, we acknowledge that we alone are responsible for the decision,

regardless of whether Miss James chooses to report or not. Miss James would have to accept that

whatever decision she makes, the consequences will affect everyone involved and are also her

responsibility. A postmodern teacher chooses consequences that they inherently feel are moral as

a result of their relationship with that other human being.

Virtue Ethics :

This school of thought is explained by way of “including the decision-maker – and

relationships to and amongst persons and things, practical wisdom exhibits maturity, deep

consideration of culture, persons, and things, and possible consequences with a close

appreciation of the actual situation with the temporal nature of the situation involved in the

decision” (Donlevy, Chapter 3).

For those advocates of virtue ethics, the belief is that if one lives a life of good character

which utilizes practical wisdom, one can achieve the goal, at least for this school of thought, of

personal happiness which is sometimes referred to as eudemonia meaning that one flourishes

according to the nature of being human (Hursthouse, 2007). Some questions that advocates of

virtue ethics may ask:


Is this decision which I may take in concert with my fundamental and true character?

As stated by Donlevy “It is important to note that one can exhibit honesty in some

situations but not others” (Chapter 3, p. 2). We assume that this would involve not reporting the

student to the police for committing theft due to the fact that the teacher knows the student is

having difficulties at home and may be unable to purchase necessary clothing. The teacher and

administration team should first approach the student within school hours to carefully talk the

situation through with the student and attempt to resolve it without the police. A virtue ethics

supporter is always trying to bring out the best in an individual, therefore through conversation

rather than immediate punishment, the teacher would be reinforcing certain virtues and

attempting to give the student an opportunity to be their best self.

If I make the proposed decision, how might that decision impact my view of myself and my
ethical character?

A virtue ethics teacher would make the proposed decision if it aligns with the personal

values that they hold. One possible issue with virtue ethics is that there is not necessarily a

specific list that outlines specific actions that are virtuous. This list is fluid and will often change

depending on the person and depending on the situation that one finds themselves involved in.

If I make the proposed decision would it be in accord with those persons that I admire for
their strength of character?
A supporter of virtue ethics often has certain individuals that they admire for character

traits such as experiential wisdom, honesty, empathy, etc. If the teacher (in this case) can make a

decision that appears to align with those of an admired individual, they will pursue it.

If I make the proposed decision how might it affect others sense of their own ethical
awareness?

A virtue ethics supporter is unique in the way that they always consider others and are

able to empathize. While other schools of ethical thought often consider solely the impact on the

individual who will make the decision, a virtue ethics supporter considers the impact on those

around her/him. In the case of Miss James, we assume she would consider the consequences of

her decision and how they would affect all parties involved. We assume that because experiential

wisdom is of utmost importance to virtue ethics supporters, Miss James would use this to resolve

the situation to the best of her abilities.

Ultimate Conclusion:

Following our analysis of Miss. James’ ethical dilemma using the Deontological, Post

Modern and Virtue Ethics school of ethical thoughts we have concluded that if we were in Miss.

James’ situation we would not immediately report John to the authorities. We have concluded

that it is not “in the best interest of the pupil” (The Alberta Teachers Association, 2004, item 5)

to immediately divulge information about the theft, before consulting John in regards to his

actions. We have concluded that we would approach John at school on Monday, talk to him

about what we had witnessed, and initiate a conversation about the illegality of theft, and the

consequences of committing such a crime. We would support John in accessing resources that

would provide him and his family with affordable clothing, telling him that thievery is always
illegal and that there are always other options before committing a crime. We believe that this

conclusion aligns with the Post-Modern school of thought, as we are addressing this ethical

dilemma by forming relationship with our student based on trust and respect, ensuring that it is in

the best interest of our student.

References
Alberta Teachers’ Association. Code of professional conduct. (2004). Retrieved from:
https://www.teachers.ab.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/ATA/Publications/Teachers-as-
Professionals/IM-4E%20Code%20of%20Professional%20Conduct.pdf

Donlevy, J. (N.D). Chapter 3. (PDF document).

Donlevy, J. EDUC 525, October 19 2017 Class #11 (PDF document). Retrived from Lecture
Notes Online Website:
https://d2l.ucalgary.ca/d2l/le/content/193828/viewContent/2699139/View

Donlevy, J. EDUC 525, October 24 2017 Class #12, Slide 38 (PDF document). Retrieved from
Lecture Notes Online Website:
https://d2l.ucalgary.ca/d2l/le/content/193828/viewContent/2705086/View

Government of Canada. (2017). Criminal Code, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46. Retrieved from:
http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-46/section-322.html

Province of Alberta. (2017). Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act. Retrieved from:
http://www.qp.alberta.ca/documents/Acts/c12.pdf