Here’s another textbook review. This one is aimed at Education students, and others interested in decision making in the educational field.

General Information

Title: The Ethics of Teaching (Third Edition)
Authors: Kenneth Strike and Jonas F. Soltis
Original Publication Date: 1998 copyright, but I have reason to believe this only applies to the third edition.
ISBN: 0-8077-3666-X
Cover Price: There is no printed cover price, but my campus bookstore sold it for $28.05 Canadian.
Buy from: Amazon.com or Amazon.ca

Subject Matter

This introduced a framework for making ethical decisions as a teacher or school administrator, providing indications of what people might need to consider and what biases might be present but unrecognized.

High Point

The case studies are well integrated, and often are used at the start of a chapter. This helps to integrate them with the text, and it demonstrates the importance of concepts before they are formally introduced. It greatly aids the reader in finding the relevance of abstract concepts.

Low Point

Some of these case studies read very dated. A school is described as progressive and modern because it has had a racially integrated playground for five years. A case study with a drunk and abusive parent doesn’t even consider calling in Social Services as an option. Little things like this tend to add up.

The Chapters

The chapter titles are as follows:

  1. What is this book about
  2. Punishment and Due Process
  3. Intellectual Freedom
  4. Equal Treatment of Students
  5. Dealing With Diversity
  6. Democracy, Deliberation, and Reflective Equilibrium
  7. Supplemental Case Studies

The Scores

Before I start rating the scores, I should point out that technical texts were the textbooks we had in mind when this set of criteria was designed. The “Examples” and “Exercises” sections aren’t perfect fits, for example. However, six of the seven chapters start out with case studies, discuss the concepts from them in detail, and then conclude with case studies for the reader to examine. Therefore, I’ve decided to include the introductory case studies in the “Examples” category, and the additional case studies in the “Exercises” category.

The clarity of the text was excellent. There are mock conversations, and a fairly colloquial style that keeps things running smoothly. The concepts were well explained, aided by the fact that practical examples were immediately on hand. In some cases, the authors seemed to assume that the reader is familiar with certain philosophical concepts not explicitly introduced, but they usually become clear in context. I give it 5 out of 6.

The structure is very well thought out. The first chapter describes the structures of the remaining chapters, from case studies, to analyses, to discussion of concepts, right into further case studies. The remaining chapters hold to this, with the exception of chapter seven, the chapter which simply collects an assortment of other case studies that didn’t easily fit into existing chapters. I give it 5 out of 6, hurt only by its lack of index or other cross-referencing tool.

The examples are being rated using the introductory case studies. These case studies served their functions well, and were analyzed in detail, being well integrated into the text. However, several of them are dated, and they are often presented as though there were only two available options when I often would have gone with a completely different solution than the ones presented in the text. Also, despite their stated efforts to avoid making decisions about “right” or “wrong” answers in this text, sometimes the mock dialogues they present to show the debate were so incredibly one-sided that I couldn’t help but feel that the authors really couldn’t imagine how any rational human being would choose the other side of the argument. (It’s not personal preference on my part in all cases, either; sometimes the weak side was not the side I would have chosen.) I give it 3 out of 6.

The exercises are being rated using the additional case studies at the end of the chapters, and the case studies in chapter seven. There are a number of them available, and they have interesting follow-up questions, but those follow-up questions were often very limited. (For example, they were often of the “would you choose option A or B?” form when I had thought of two or three solutions worth examining that were not on their list while I read the case study.) Normally we’d include a rating based on whether or not answers or solutions were provided, but that doesn’t really make sense for an area with no right answers. Still, I think the exercises themselves were good, but the provided questions were very limited. I give it 4 out of 6.

This was a fairly complete text. The only ethical issue I can think of that wasn’t really dealt with is the question of whether or not it’s ethical for teachers to teach to a test rather than from a curriculum. At 143 pages, it’s not like the book was too long to include it. They touched on it in one case study in chapter seven, but they seemed to quickly set the issue aside on the grounds that many teachers do that and then moved on to other questions. I give it 5 out of 6.

The editing could use work. There were no typographical or grammatical errors, but it wasn’t always smooth. I’m fairly certain I can identify which passages and case studies were written for the different editions. (It’s possible that I’m just picking out the writing styles of the co-authors when they work independently or in collaboration, but I suspect it’s more than that, since the most out of place chapter is the one that was added specifically for this edition, chapter five.) I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, this textbook is a good starting point, but it wouldn’t really work without a class along with it to allow for debates. If there are no discussions with others, it’s hard to spot other viewpoints. Since I’m assuming most of our textbooks reviews will be read by people who plan to read and work through things on their own, I wouldn’t recommend this text for that purpose. At the same time, the authors strongly encourage the reader to discuss this with others, so they obviously intend for this to be used as a starting point for larger debate. I give it 3 out of 6.

In total, The Ethics of Teaching (third edition) receives 29 out of 42.