PROFESSIONS, PROFESSIONALISM AND PROFESSIONAL ETHICS
Is it appropriate to regard teaching as a profession? It is tempting to suppose that this question is of little moment, if not actually meaningless. For one thing, it might be said (with some justice) that the line commonly drawn between professions and non-professions is a quite artificial one. For another, it may be also said (with even more justice) that an occupation does not have to be regarded as a profession in order to be the focus of moral issues; for that occupation to be, in other words, one to which questions of professional ethics are relevant. But although I think that there is something to both these claims, I nevertheless think that the question of the professional status of teaching is an important one, and that however we answer it has significant implications for our precise conception of the ethical issues which it characteristically engenders. Indeed, we are already able to see from the last chapter that different ways of conceptualising teaching – as a vocation like priesthood or nursing, a profession like medicine, or a trade like plumbing – can have significant implications for thinking about the character and extent of the moral and other responsibilities of teachers. Hence, in this chapter, we shall attempt to sketch a roughand-ready account of what it might mean for an occupation to qualify for the status of profession – an account which, moreover, emphasises the centrality of ethical or moral concerns and considerations. And subsequently, in Chapter 3, we shall try to see how the occupation of teaching or the practice of education stands with respect to this account.