ETHICAL ISSUES CONCERNING EDUCATION AND SCHOOLING
In the previous chapter we looked briefly at a range of issues concerning the role of the teacher, with particular respect to issues of the interplay of the personal/private and professional/public aspects of teachers’ lives. On the face of it, teaching seems to differ from many other professions and occupations in so far as the kind of person a teacher is, and the way he or she is inclined to live, appear to have considerable implications for professional practice, not least in respect of that further ethical dimension of moral exemplification which is less conspicuous, if not entirely absent, in the case of such standard professions as medicine and law. In this respect, as we saw at the outset, teaching seems to exhibit some of the features of such traditional vocations or vocation-professions as religious ministry. Just like a teacher a minister or clergyman is in role liable to attract censure for aspects of his or her lifestyle which might be considered irrelevant to effective professional practice of law or medicine, precisely because it also seems that effective religious ministry cannot be conceived independently of the development of a certain kind of character. Indeed, it may be only a relatively recent inclination to construe the professional teacher’s role in terms of the acquisition of a set of off-the-peg skills or competences which seduces us into thinking of good teaching as conceivable apart from more personal qualities. However, it should need little further reflection to see that many of the skills featured in competence models of professional training – abilities to match general curricular prescriptions to individual needs, to hold the attention of a class or to maintain good order – depend precisely
upon the cultivation of situation-specific capacities and sensibilities of empathy, care, patience, fairness and persistence which are neither themselves skills, nor apt for acquisition in quite the manner of skills.