Educators: These Two Principles Are Your Universal Code of Ethics
The sphere of ethical responsibilities and moral dilemmas is not just limited to teachers. Professionals from all fields—including doctors, architects, engineers, or psychologists—face ethical issues during their professional duties and find themselves grappling with right and wrong. That’s why most professions have generated a universal code of ethics that every professional belonging to the group is supposed to follow. Doctors abide by the Hippocratic oath, for example. But as mentioned, the teaching profession unfortunately has no universally accepted code of ethics. The InTASC Standards come close. A number of organizations have formulated useful codes of ethics. The National Education Association (NEA) Code of Ethics is an example. A number of state education departments also have their personalized formal codes, for example, the Alaska Professional Teaching Practices Commission.
Here is the NEA Code of Ethics:
Commitment to the Student
The educator strives to help each student realize his or her potential as a worthy and effective member of society. The educator therefore works to stimulate the spirit of inquiry, the acquisition of knowledge and understanding, and the thoughtful formulation of worthy goals.
In fulfillment of the obligation to the student, the educator—
1. Shall not unreasonably restrain the student from independent action in the pursuit of
2. Shall not unreasonably deny the student’s access to varying points of view.
3. Shall not deliberately suppress or distort subject matter relevant to the student’s progress.
4. Shall make reasonable effort to protect the student from conditions harmful to learning or to health and safety.
5. Shall not intentionally expose the student to embarrassment or disparagement.
6. Shall not on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, national origin, marital status, political or religious beliefs, family, social or cultural background, or sexual orientation, unfairly:
Exclude any student from participation in any program
Deny benefits to any student
Grant any advantage to any student
7. Shall not use professional relationships with students for private advantage.
8. Shall not disclose information about students obtained in the course of professional service unless disclosure serves a compelling professional purpose or is required by law.
Commitment to the Profession
The education profession is vested by the public with a trust and responsibility requiring the highest ideals of professional service.
In the belief that the quality of the services of the education profession directly influences the nation and its citizens, the educator shall exert every effort to raise professional standards, to promote a climate that encourages the exercise of professional judgment, to achieve conditions that attract persons worthy of the trust to careers in education, and to assist in preventing the practice of the profession by unqualified persons.
In fulfillment of the obligation to the profession, the educator—
1. Shall not in an application for a professional position deliberately make a false statement or fail to disclose a material fact related to competency and qualifications.
2. Shall not misrepresent his/her professional qualifications.
3. Shall not assist any entry into the profession of a person known to be unqualified in respect to character, education, or other relevant attribute.
4. Shall not knowingly make a false statement concerning the qualifications of a candidate for a professional position.
5. Shall not assist a non-educator in the unauthorized practice of teaching.
6. Shall not disclose information about colleagues obtained in the course of professional service unless disclosure serves a compelling professional purpose or is required by law.
7. Shall not knowingly make false or malicious statements about a colleague.
8. Shall not accept any gratuity, gift, or favor that might impair or appear to influence professional decisions or action.
Teachers’ concerns for the best interests of students will motivate them to engage in ethical teaching and other educational practices. Teachers must also abide by a number of laws that exist not only to protect students, but also to protect teachers. Make sure you know what professional codes you are expected to uphold. Your action as an individual affects the tone of your community – school and otherwise – as a whole. Make your workspace a place that you’re proud of.