Sunday, January 17, 2021

CURMUDGUCATION: Moral Distress and Teaching

CURMUDGUCATION: Moral Distress and Teaching
Moral Distress and Teaching

I've run across this new-to-me term several times in the past few months-- moral distress. It wasn't developed for the teaching profession, but lots of teachers are going to recognize what is being described here.

Andrew Jameton gets most of the credit for drawing the moral distress picture, looking at the world of nursing. This piece from the AMA Journal of Ethics lays out his ideas pretty succinctly and points the way to broadening them. Here's the basic definition:

Moral distress, according to Andrew Jameton’s highly influential definition, occurs when a nurse knows the morally correct action to take but is constrained in some way from taking this action.

This is immediately recognizable for anyone who has been in the teaching world for the past few decades. "Stop teaching all those full literary works," some of us were told, "and start drilling these short excerpts with multiple choice questions instead." Pull these kids out of their electives and put them in test prep classes instead. Stop worrying about their education and their life after school, and start worrying about their test scores instead. 

Honestly, moral distress in teaching can't be blamed solely on education reform. There have always been those moments. The time a supervisor told you that you needed to stop counting spelling for a student's work--including his spelling tests. The students you were required to pass because the front office wanted that kid out of there. I was in a meeting with a special ed supervisor once, debating the scores for a student in my class, and I lost my cool and snapped, "Look, why don't you tell me what grade you expect the student to get in my class, and I'll just fudge the numbers to get that." Without a hint of irony, she told me that would be very helpful. Beyond the special events, CONTINUE READING: CURMUDGUCATION: Moral Distress and Teaching