Fall Semester, 1999; Thursdays, 6:30-8:30

Professor Jerry Starratt

Tel: 552-1961; email:



The course is grounded in the theme of social justice, and the belief that the role of educators is not only to act ethically in the many individual situations of their daily professional lives, but more importantly to see that the institutional structures and processes of the school system are themselves reflections of a system of justice and care. Through a series of readings, case studies, discussions, and exercises, the course will expose students to ethical principles and ethical argument as they would be contextualized in school settings, and encourage the incorporation of ethical learnings in the curriculum of the school.

Course Outcomes

By the end of the course students will;

  1. Understand some of the major distinctions in approaches to ethical deliberations (religiously grounded, consequentialist, foundationalist, natural law, communitarian, etc.)
  2. Be able to discuss the historical origins of inequities in schools based on race, class, ethnicity, gender, and religion, and how the residue of those inequities continue to manifest themselves in today’s schools.
  3. Be able to discuss ethical problems in schools using various principles as analytical perspectives on the problems.
  4. Be able to look beyond individual episodes in the school setting to the underlying assumptions and tacit or explicit policies that indirectly or directly support ethically questionable activity.
  5. Have developed the beginning design of a matrix of ethical learnings over a two or three year span of classes, and be able to explain and argue for the need for such learnings in their school.

6. Have developed a clearer sense of their own personal and professional ethical priorities.


Spring, J. (1994). Deculturalization and the Struggle for Equality. New York: McGraw Hill.

Starratt, R.J. (1994). Building an Ethical School. London: Falmer Press

Strike, K.A., Haller, E.J., & Soltis, J. F. (1998). The Ethics of School Administration. (Second Edition) New York Teachers College Press.









Sequence of Classes

1. Overview of the course. Students write a statement of their personal ethics, and then of their professional ethics. Discussion of Social Ethics: beyond personal issues to a concern for the common good. A brief review of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Dewey and Rawls. Introduction to ethical considerations around equity and rights. Assignment: Teams of three assigned to read Joel Springs’ book of deculturalization, with each person responsible to teach the others about various sections of the book.

2. Team members teach the book to each other; then teams discuss how deculturalization continues in subtle forms in American schools. The pairs of teams compare impressions and identify common concerns and how they might be addressed. Assignments: teams read different readings from Pagano, King, hooks, Scheurich, Hoffman, Pinar, etc., and come to class prepared to discuss equity issues and their resolution.

3. Teams prepare their discussion of their author and then present it to the class. Class generates ethical principles around equity issues. Discussion of the Daley case. Introduction to critical ethics. Assignments. Teams assigned to readings in Kozol, Freire, Giroux, McClaren, Lather, and Capper, with a view towards an analysis of schools’ domesticating and emancipating potential. Teams assigned to debate the merits of schooling for accommodation to the social status quo, or schooling for personal freedom and social responsibility.

4. Teams debate the purposes of schooling. Evaluation of the exercise. Introduction to Strike, Haller, & Soltis text, and their development of ethical principles. Assignment: Read the case at the beginning of Chapter Four, and try to articulate the ethical issues involved in the case, before reading the authors’ analysis. Read the authors’ discussion of ethical principles on pp. 14-19, and apply them to the case in Ch. 4. Come to class prepared to present your analysis of the ethical principles at stake and how you would respond to the case, using one or more of the ethical principles to argue for your solution. Review the case at the end of Ch. 4 and be prepared to discuss them.

5. Teams assigned to discuss the case and come up with a consensus decision. Teams report and decisions compared for the moral reasoning that supports their decisions. Assignment: Read the central case in Chapter five and come to class prepared to argue for the ethical principles at stake. Read over the cases at the end of the chapter and come to class prepared to render an ethical analysis and response.

6. Teams assigned to prepare a consensus position on the main case of Ch. 5. Comparison and contrast of solutions by the teams. Teams next work on one of the cases at the end of the chapter and present their responses. Assignment: Read the central case in Ch 7 and be prepared to argue your ethical response on principle. Review the additional cases toward the end of the chapter and be prepared to render an ethical analysis and response.

7. Discussion of cases in teams and then in common. Assignment: Read the essay on the Intrinsic Morality of Learning and write a three page reflective response, indicating one or more ways that you might put the ideas of the essay into practice in your classrooms..

8. Lecture on the study of the Moral Life of Schools by Jackson et al. Introduction to Building an Ethical School. Assignment: Read chps 1-3.; assume that the author had presented these ideas in your school as a preliminary effort to get the faculty and administration to address the place of ethics in the curriculum; be prepared to argue for or against the ideas of those chapters as they might apply to your school.

9. Discussion of arguments pro and con building an ethical school. Exercises on Foundational Qualities: teams identify ways that those qualities are already taught (and learned?) at their schools and then brainstorm ways in which they could be taught more expressly. Assignment: Each person does an audit of two or three grades’ curriculum to identify actual or potential treatment of the foundational qualities, using a beginning matrix to map those learnings.

10. Teams compare their audits and create a matrix of foundational learnings for an ideal school (at least for those two or three grades) that includes both "what is", and "what could be" types of learnings. Introduction to the Ethics of Justice, Care, & Critique. Assignment: Read chapter on the Multidimensional Ethical Framework, and generate an audit of learnings that support that framework that could be found in your school.

11. Teams compare their audits and create a matrix of multidimensional ethical learnings for an ideal school/ two or three grades, including "what is" types of learnings and "what could be" learnings as well. Assignment: Team members work at developing a part of a comprehensive ethical curriculum that includes both foundational qualities and multidimensional ethics. Complete reading of final chapters of BES.

12. Teams spend whole class working on their construction of their ideal ethical curriculum, adding a component of home learnings that reinforce what the school is teaching, and an opening statement that provides a rationale for their inclusion of ethical learnings in the curriculum.. Assignment: Teams put the finishing touches on their design of an Ethical School, and prepare copies to be shared with the rest of the class.

13. Members of various teams meet in diads with members of other teams to present their ethical curriculum. Each person receives feedback from his or her partner, which is subsequently carried back to the team. The team then decides on any revisions to their design before handing it in to the professor. Assignment: Having prepared the principal well in advance, spend at least an hour with the principal discussing the merits of the design and the possible applications at your school. What kinds of administrative concerns were voiced by the principal and how did you respond? What did you learn about educational administration from this conversation with the principal.

14. Teams hand in their design for an ethical school. Teams share what they learned from their discussions with their principals. General reporting and discussion of the exercise. Preparation for the Final Exam. Assignment: Read over the following cases in the last chapter of ESA in preparation for the final exam: numbers 3,4,6,7,8,9,12,13,15. You will able asked to respond to two of those cases as follows: 1) analyze what ethical principles are at stake, and which one should take precedence in arriving at a decision. 2) As you prepare your response to the case, take into account the ethic of justice, the ethic of care, and the ethic of critique. 3)Respond to the case, honoring as many of the ethical demands as you think appropriate.

15. Final Exam & Course Evaluation