chapter  11
19 Pages

THE MORAL ROLE OF THE TEACHER

In the previous chapters we have already indicated a dimension of ethical involvement which sets teaching significantly apart from such standard professions as medicine and law. By way of illustration, let us suppose that parents are seeking medical assistance for a child afflicted with some ailment. Getting the best medical care largely comes down to finding someone who is appropriately informed or skilled in the relevant field. However, it might be that the best qualified person here is not from a personalmoral point of view a very nice or good man. In his private life he is dishonest, spiteful and dissolute; he is mentally and physically cruel to his wife as well as persistently unfaithful; he repeatedly betrays his friends and exploits acquaintances, and so on. None of this may matter to parents, of course, so long as the doctor has the required medical expertise. On the other hand, however, if parents in search of a good education for their child discover that the best available in terms of academic knowledge and pedagogical skills is someone who is known personally to be a liar and an adulterer, as well as disloyal, shifty, sarcastic and bullying, they may well – regardless of his or her approved academic knowledge and technical skill as a teacher – have serious reservations about placing their child in the care of that person. It is therefore arguable that it cannot be a matter of total indifference either to professional educationalists or parents what a teacher is like as a private person in the sense that it is a matter of (relative) indifference what a surgeon or lawyer is like, precisely because educational goals cannot be disentangled from wider considerations and ideals of personal moral development. It may therefore be a cause for concern if teachers exhibit values or

personal characteristics apparently at variance with what seems to be educationally desirable, which is why parents are inclined to worry, understandably if sometimes unnecessarily, about such aspects of the lives of some teachers as homosexuality, extramarital cohabitation, political and religious affiliations, and so forth.