Tools a Principal Can Use to Make an Ethical Decision When Faced with Two Right Options
The question of ethics is central to the functioning of society with the prevalent values of honesty, respect, responsibility, compassion as well as fairness acting as the entry atrium in the understanding of ethics. A society that is otherwise characterized by uncertainty and volatility, free from a moral check, would be an ideal environment for corruption, dishonesty, injustice, irresponsibility and other societal ills to thrive, hence the significance of ethics (Fieser and Pojman).
Ethics is a discipline free from the law; it is about obedience to the “unenforceable” as excellently articulated by the 19th Century British Parliamentarian, Lord Moutton. Ethics is also largely elusive and instead based on an individual’s beliefs and values (Kidder). This paper will employ an anecdote to bring the debate alive of how ethical decisions are to be made.
The term ethics has not had the luxury of having a single definition and has on the contrary been defined differently by many individuals. Jones has described the term as the application of values to decision making implying the outcome, which is the behavior of an individual, as a manifestation of self with regard to the values held by the individual (Jones). In some organizations and professions, it is presented as a moral code of conduct or code of ethics, which is actually written down. This could be a set of policies or standards of rules to guide behavior (Mizzon). Professions such as schools of Journalism, Nursing, Medicine, and Education among others are examples of professions guided by a code of ethics that presents the professionals with the actions expected of them, or the structure upon which they can make decisions in the day-to-day conduct within the respective profession (Rentfro).
Ethics enables an individual opts for a decision that is effective, practical as well as available, which challenges the rhetoric that has associated the concept with choosing between right and wrong, or good and bad (Kidder). It is particularly possible for one to be presented with a dilemma in the face of two right options or decisions. It is also possible for two conflicting values to be manifested simultaneously in a situation, presenting the decision maker with a challenge. If further placed in a position of leadership, individuals are not only needed to impart the value of ethics on their subordinates but also to demonstrate integrity in the conduct of duty (Larson).
Principles are bestowed upon such crucial duties to enable effective school functioning. Their duties range from; Administrative management, Budgetary Management; Staff Management; Public Relations meaning representing the school to the community as well as parents; Staffing of the School as well as Disciplinary duties (Belcher). This paper out of the duties of the Principle will look at his or her role as a disciplinarian.
International Diversity School (IDS) has just encountered a defining moment in the history of the school, a school that had just been labeled one of the state’s best schools in 2011. 12th March 2012, noon was the date and time when a dark cloud that stubbornly lingered above the school’s building block generated curiosity from the entire school. It was only moments later before the school principal, who had for most of the morning remained in her office, realized that the school’s boys dormitory was on fire. Everyone rushed to the scene as they impatiently waited for the firefighters, who then seemed an eternity away to arrive. The fire as if to mock the observers, fiercely consumed property worth billions of dollars as the school’s Principle tearfully watched, this being the first incident in the history of IDS.
Investigations were conducted to establish the cause of the fire, and a young boy consented to the allegations and admitted being the force behind the fire. His reason was that he was against going to boarding school and perceived to be the most appropriate way to communicate the dissatisfaction.
The dilemma comes in when the young boy, actually a son to an influential Political figure, who even played a role in the school’s committee that endorsed the new school Principle is bound for expulsion from the school or retained in the institution after his parents cover the cost of the damages and taught through this that this is not a way to communicate. Numerous ethical frameworks have been created to enable an understanding of how ethical decisions are made. These range from utilitarian theory, consequentiality theory, deontological theory to virtue ethics that all involve different approaches to decision making (Singer).
Ethical decision making involves choosing, by an individual or even an organization a course of action that is based on feelings and thoughts that give consideration to what is right, and evaluating a choice to establish if the right thing was done or not (Sims). Virtue ethics revolves around the moral character of a decision maker; the external environment does not influence the decision maker, and he instead acts independently. A strong moral compass is expected to guide an individual, and he or she is expected to take pride in social responsibility and therefore endeavor to make decisions that reflect his values (Taylor).
Deontological framework, pioneered by Immanuel Kant, proposes a set of moral, philosophical tenets to guide society. It calls for decisions made to be triggered by the desire of service. Man is a rational being, capable of making and for that matter abiding by ethical rules. It, therefore, implies adherence to a set of obligations (Wood). Consequentiality theory, as the name suggests, judges actions by their outcome. Something is right or wrong depending on the result, and according to Slote, the better the results, the better the decision.
The decision that the Principle of IDS makes will be influenced by the choice of framework applied. Given that this is the first case in this school, there is no reference made to establish the boys’ judgment. The Principle, having her own values of justice will want her decision to demonstrate this, so it is by sending the child away or by retaining him. If he is sent away, what ensures that he does not do this in the next school he moves to? If he is retained, how will the school community perceive the school leadership? Will it mean that anyone can get away with such a crime? Despite this, how will she compel his parents to pay for the damages yet the boy’s father is such a powerful figure in the area? What will be the consequences of her actions?
The above analysis implies that there will be consequences for whichever option she takes. What the boy did was wrong, no dispute about that. The decisions facing the principle are ethically right because they would reflect justice, rationality, responsibility, which is all of the good moral standings. One decision could cause another school a similar experience or worse because the expulsion will probably, actually, definitely not taint the son of a committee member and this decision is also likely to cost the Principal her job at IDS. On the other hand, retaining the student in school can enable him to learn, the hard way, that their other less destructive ways to communicate. This, however, does not assure the school that there may not be a repeat. What if he doesn’t change? The question of justice versus mercy is also identifiable in a dilemma (Slote). At what cost can the boy obtain the Principle’s mercy? The Principle needs to study the consequences of her decision sparingly and compare them against her beliefs, priorities, consider what the rest of the school will think of her, these are all to act as her cues for what choice she is to make. Have the teachers constantly complained about the boy’s behavior in the past and would want him sent to another? What about the students, will they feel safe with him around?
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