The Rock Ethics Institute

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Moral Decency: An Aspiration for Educational Leadership

When Oct 02, 2009
from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM
Where Nittany Lion Inn
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Associate Professor Emeritus, University of Texas at Dallas

Victor L. Worsfold is an Associate Professor Emeritus of the University of Texas at Dallas where he taught courses in ethics, social and political philosophy, the philosophy of education and the humanities.  Presently, he is a consultant to the McDermott Scholars Program in the University where he introduces the Scholars to opera.  His main research interests have been in such areas as ethical issues in the practice and administration of education, children’s/students’ rights, moral education at both secondary and college levels, moral decency in a liberal society  and the work of John Rawls. He was Associate Dean twice in the School of Arts and Humanities at University of Texas at Dallas, the first Director of the University’s Teaching Quality Enhancement Program and for some years earlier in his career he was a schoolmaster in England and Canada. As a result his work attempts to integrate both theoretical and practical perspectives as he addresses problems in the practice of education. His articles are to be found in such publications as Educational Theory, the Proceedings of the Philosophy of Education Society, Perspectives [the Journal of the Association for General and Liberal Studies, an association of which he has been the President], the Journal of Thought and the e-Journal of College and Character.

Moral Decency: An Aspiration for Educational Leadership

I want to argue that moral educational leadership requires the pursuit of moral decency on the part of educational leaders. I take moral decency to be a secular notion, capturing a balance between pursuing self-interest and the claims of others with whom one has community. Leading in schools, I’d argue, requires leaders there to understand what is in their own self–interest, and what the claims of those whom they must lead amount to. Structuring schools so that all participants in them can gain self-respect is crucial to realizing this kind of decency. An ethic of care can accomplish this eventuality. But universal agreement about how to behave in schools is hardly likely. Leaders must think through an ethic of coordination to deal with the ineradicable disagreements endemic to schools such that the self-respect of each participant is preserved. In the end perhaps the best that can be achieved in leading a school is a kind of overlapping consensus.

This lecture is part of the conference: "Exploring the Meta-Values of Authentic Leadership: Moral Literacy in Action"