ERIC Identifier: ED342775
Publication Date: 1992-04-00
Author: Fain, Gerald S.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Teacher Education Washington DC.
Ethics in Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance.
Ethics is a branch of philosophy--moral philosophy. When applied to a
particular profession or field, ethics is useful in uncovering the values that
drive practice. These values are sometimes clearly expressed in formal codes of
ethics or they may find expression in the lives of the practitioners. This
Digest will discuss the importance of ethics to professional practice, the
importance of shared values, and the development of codes of ethics.
SHARED VALUES AND PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY
in the fields of health, physical education, recreation, and dance (HPRD)
routinely take actions that require moral reasoning. Instruction about personal
health (e.g., sexual behavior, use of alcohol and tobacco), fair play, and even
how one ought to use free time calls upon moral reasoning and the articulation
of values. The answers that professionals offer demonstrate both individual
character and the collective values of their profession. These values can assert
a unifying orientation to a collective group of specialized fields of practice.
Because the HPRD umbrella of specializations covers a host of different
fields, creation of a single, unifying code of ethics is problematic. Moreover,
there is no evidence that these professions want such a code. In contrast, it
appears that many specialists believe that they need separate codes (see
discussion in next section).
However, codes alone do not define the character of professional life nor do
they necessarily express the most fundamental values upon which the
specializations are founded. It is here, in the values of these fields, that it
is possible to find a shared foundation. While these values are not
systematically taught across professional preparation programs or even
incorporated into professional codes of ethics, they can be found throughout the
professional literature. The following examples illustrate this relationship
between collectively held values and professional responsibility.
OF COOPERATIVE SYSTEMS FOR SELF-EXPRESSION.
The Olympic Games provide good
evidence of the way sport is viewed as an instrument for cross-cultural
understanding and cooperation. International programs promote universal values
and experience in cooperative living. They provide direct evidence that people
from divergent cultures can create ways to live together that are based upon
clearly understood and freely expressed values.
BETWEEN PEOPLE AND THEIR ENVIRONMENTS.
Caring for the earth, as taught by
those in environmental health and outdoor recreation, embraces a view of the
world that is dependent upon cooperation and respect for divergent and often
competing value systems. This advocacy of harmony is centered in dedication to
the conservation of natural resources, protection of ecological systems,
promotion of environmental health, and appreciation of nature.
OF GOOD CHARACTER.
Teaching is unavoidably tied to values. Students learn
about values from their teachers. Within the formal and informal classrooms of
those in HPRD, there are continuing opportunities to teach ethics. The virtues t
o be taught are many and remind us that ethics are ethics--it does not matter if
it is a baseball game, nature hike, or dance class. Instructors who have been
educated to think about their responsibilities as having moral import, can have
profound impact on the moral character of those around them.
HPRD CODES OF ETHICS
When answering, "How ought I behave?"
or "What ought I do?" practitioners draw upon the preparation they received.
Often stated as professional responsibility, this training may include
instruction in ethics. These guidelines for practice, ideally developed as the
result of systematic field study, are typically represented in codes of ethics.
While the fields of health, physical education, recreation, and dance do not
have a common code of ethics, codes are available to several fields within this
group. For example, those who teach in schools may use the National Education
Association code of ethics that applies to the practice of teaching across
disciplines and gives no specific instruction to any of the teaching fields
(Rich, 1984). The American Psychological Association (APA) provides sport
psychologists with a code of ethics adapted from the ethical standards of the
APA, which offers specific guidance for practice, including significant
attention to ethics in testing (LeUnes & Nation, 1989). The National
Therapeutic Recreation Society (1990) provides therapeutic recreators with a
code of ethics that is particularly useful to those who practice in clinical
settings where standards of practice are pressed by third-party regulators. The
National Recreation and Park Association (1977) has a code of ethics suggested
for adoption by state recreation and park associations. Other codes of ethics
have been adopted by various professional groups related to the HPRD professions
VALUE OF CODES
Codes in and of themselves, however, do not
have value unless they are actively used, interpreted, reviewed, and revised
over time. Moreover, because codes address minimum expectations for practice
they cannot go beyond matters of duty. A code cannot be expected to motivate bad
people to behave well, nor can a code take the place of the individual's
aspiration for good character or morally reflective practice.
Codes are important when they reflect the realities of professional life.
Codes also declare to those outside the field the way these professionals think
about their responsibilities. One can analyze the importance of codes within a
particular profession by investigating the methods used in their construction,
and by asking how the codes are included within programs of professional
preparation, in-service education, and programs of certification and licensing.
When codes are actively used in these ways, members of the group prove their
collective will to hold each other accountable for a particular kind of
behavior. A professional culture that finds this type of utility in codes of
ethics assures the public that the group is serious about protecting them
against harm from unethical colleagues.
A code is especially valuable in those circumstances where action by the
practitioner will unavoidably result in harm to someone. Such instances may
involve conflicting rights of students and teachers, athletes and coaches, or
subjects and researchers. Ethical dilemmas require the mediation between
competing interests. Codes may also provide guidance regarding professional
etiquette concerning associations with colleagues, clients, and the public.
When there is no instruction from the profession, the practitioner alone
determines what to do. In that case, practitioners use their reasoning,
intuition, and/or practical experience with matters of right and wrong. Without
instruction from colleagues this kind of decision making is often based upon
self-interest and may be no more complicated than asking, "What does my employer
or the public law require me to do?" (Fain & Gillespie, 1990). In searching
for guidance, the practitioner gains no benefit from the collective experience
and knowledge of colleagues. As a result, the basis for determining good
practice is invented by each solitary practitioner and the opportunity for
building a unified profession becomes impossible.
Codes of ethics, if properly crafted, can
reflect the moral foundation of professional life. These codes provide an
opportunity to instruct the beginning practitioner about professional
responsibility, and they serve as a reminder to those in the field that
continued practice is dependent upon compliance with specific expectations held
by colleagues. Providing that attention is given to enforcement, they can be
instrumental in guarding against those who believe that decency in professional
behavior is all relative, all a matter of personal taste, or arbitrary
preference for professional behavior.
Teaching well in ethics asks that the teachers have good character, are
familiar with ethical concepts, and have an interest in moral reflection.
Working to assure this goal, there needs to be attention given to moral
philosophy within professional preparation and inservice education. Research
agendas that collect and analyze case materials and thereby describe how ethical
principles are applied within the specializations are needed. Great benefit
would be derived if the specialized fields within HPRD were to create an ongoing
conversation about ethics in their respective fields. If this were to occur, the
unification of practitioners who serve diverse groups of clientele across a
great number of environments would be realized. It is the ethics of these
practitioners that serve as a common foundation for professional practice.
References identified with an EJ or ED number
have been abstracted and are in the ERIC database. Journal articles (EJ) should
be available at most research libraries; documents (ED) are available in ERIC
microfiche collections at more than 700 locations. Documents can also be ordered
through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service: 1-800-443-ERIC. For more
information contact the ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Education, One Dupont
Circle, NW, Suite 610, Washington, DC 20036; (202) 293-2450.
Fain, G. S., (Ed.). (1990). Leisure and ethics, reflections on the philosophy
of leisure. Reston, VA: American Alliance for Health, Physical Education,
Recreation and Dance.
Fain, G. S., & Gillespie, K. (1990). Professional ethics and intellectual
property: A national study. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance,
61(3), 88-95. ED 407 893
LeUnes, A. D., & Nation, J. R. (1989). Sport psychology: An introduction.
National Recreation and Park Association. (1977). Manual of procedures for
establishment of a committee on professional ethics by state recreation and park
associations. VA: Author.
National Therapeutic Recreation Society. (1990). Code of ethics. VA: National
Recreation and Park Association.
Rich, J. M. (1984). Professional ethics in education. Springfield, IL:
Charles C. Thomas. ED 261 641 (not available from EDRS).