Even the most well thought out rules or policies of an organisation, are rarely sufficient to support teachers and managers in dealing with everyday ethical issues and dilemmas. On a daily basis, teachers and managers have to act and make important decisions in situations where it is very hard to decide on the the morally right action, and where there seems to be a moral cost whatever the decision. Thinking case-studies through with other professionals helps each of us to come up with better, stronger reasons to help justify what we do, or why we believe it would be better to do something else altogether. Our team of ethics consultants are particularly interested in making a distinction between ‘rationalisations’ and ‘good reasons’ for our actions. Rationalisations usually come in when we are more concerned about the efficiency of our actions. Good reasons or justifications are morally relevant, that is, they take into account the rights and needs of other stakeholders. For accountability, this is essential.
Ethical decision-making is not just an intellectual exercise. It focuses on actions, and helps us to determine the morally right course of action when we investigate real examples.
Dilemmas and other case-studies sent in by readers of all ages are an excellent opportunity to learn about, e.g. a six-step method of ethical decision-making that you can use in your own professional and personal lives. Please send us your ethical questions and dilemmas in confidence, and each of us will respond using their own expertise. To learn more about the use of the six-step method in the professions, see our courses, or download some articles of this method in (higher) education.
Here are some examples:
- The union has asked you to go on strike, but your matrics are preparing for their final exams. What do you do?
- A student from a low socio-economic background struggles to meet the deadline of an assignment. You know his mother is in hospital and his father disappeared a long time ago. Is it fair to give him an extension and not the others, who might be struggling for other reasons?
- You witness a colleague (who is also a friend) hitting a child in class. She is aware you have seen it and asks you not to tell anyone. Do you report her to the principal or not?
- You are a principal of a school and you start to notice that a caretaker who has worked for the school for 35 years has developed a drinking habit. The children and parents are very fond of him. He is 63 and about to retire. What do you do?
- You are in charge of selecting the school’s soccer team. The school prides itself in giving equal opportunities to all learners. When the school is competing against other schools, do you select your best players only, or do you give everyone a chance, and rotate the players, especially the ones that also turn up for training?
- Someone is bullying you in class. Do you tell the teacher or not?
- Homework is set for the next day. Teacher tells you that it is for your own benefit and doesn’t need to be handed in. Your best friend calls you after you get home and you spend the rest of the day playing games with her. The next day he asks you whether you have done your homework. What should you say?
- A cell phone company offers to sponsor university research projects in return for a stand on campus selling their cell phones. The projects involve the use of cell phones in a literacy project that will benefit young learners in a township. What do you do?
Write to the Ethics Hotline in confidence (registration required), and each of us will respond using their own expertise