Excerpt from Ethics and the Early Childhood Educator: Using the NAEYC Code, Third Edition
Addressing Ethical Issues
In your work, you are very likely to face situations that involve questions of morality and ethics. You may need to weigh competing obligations to children, families, colleagues, and your community and society or make a difficult or unpopular decision.
This chapter will help you sort through the following:
Determine the nature of a workplace problem: Is it an issue of professional practice or an ethical issue?
Determine the kind of ethical issue you are facing: Is it a responsibility or a dilemma?
Engage in a thorough, systematic decision-making process that leads to an ethical course of action.
The NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct can help you identify your responsibilities and guide your decision making when you encounter predicaments that involve ethics: considerations of right and wrong, rights and responsibilities, conflicting priorities, or human welfare. These ethical issues are apt to surface as you interact with children, families, coworkers, and community members. They may involve program decisions and might call on you to advocate for children in your community, state, or nation, such as in the Ineffective Child Protective Services Agency and Standardized Testing in Kindergarten cases in Chapter 7.
This chapter and the four that follow explore some of the ethical challenges you might encounter and identify how the Code can help answer this important question: “What should an ethical early childhood educator do?”
While some ethical issues are responsibilities for which the Code provides just one clear-cut course of action, others are ethical dilemmas—moral conflicts that involve determining how to act when an individual faces conflicting professional values and responsibilities. A dilemma is a situation for which there is more than one possible resolution, each of which can be justified in moral terms. A dilemma can be viewed as a situation that deals with two “rights” or sometimes two “wrongs.”
Ethical dilemmas are different from other workplace problems in several ways:
First, in an ethical dilemma, the legitimate needs and interests of one individual or group must give way to those of another individual or group. You must do something, and you must choose between two or more actions, each of which has both benefits and costs. This is why you sometimes hear the expression “on the horns of a dilemma,” which refers to the two-pronged nature of these situations.
Second, a dilemma may involve a conflict between two or more of the Core Values described in the Code. For example, when a 3-year-old’s parents ask the director to move him to a class for 4-year-olds and his teachers feel that he is not ready, the director faces an ethical dilemma. The Ideal of maintaining a healthy setting that fosters children’s development and the Principle that calls for early childhood educators not to do anything that might harm a child conflict with the Ideals of respecting his family’s preferences and the importance of creating a partnership with them.
Third, dilemmas rarely have simple answers. An ethical dilemma cannot be resolved by simply following the rules. In fact, you won’t find easy resolutions to dilemmas in this or any other book. You can, however, learn to work through the process of making these difficult decisions by skillfully relying on the guidance provided by the Code.
From Ethics and the Early Childhood Educator: Using the NAEYC Code, Third Edition, by S. Feeney & N.K. Freeman. Copyright © 2018 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.