Picture child's feet next to pens, pencils and paper

Open Access research that is helping to improve educational outcomes for children

Strathprints makes available scholarly Open Access content by researchers in the School of Education, including those researching educational and social practices in curricular subjects. Research in this area seeks to understand the complex influences that increase curricula capacity and engagement by studying how curriculum practices relate to cultural, intellectual and social practices in and out of schools and nurseries.

Research at the School of Education also spans a number of other areas, including inclusive pedagogy, philosophy of education, health and wellbeing within health-related aspects of education (e.g. physical education and sport pedagogy, autism and technology, counselling education, and pedagogies for mental and emotional health), languages education, and other areas.

Explore Open Access education research. Or explore all of Strathclyde's Open Access research...

What's the use of ethical philosophy? : the role of ethical theory in special educational needs

Lewin, David (2014) What's the use of ethical philosophy? : the role of ethical theory in special educational needs. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 29 (4). pp. 536-547. ISSN 0885-6257

[img]
Preview
Text (Lewin-EJSNE-2014-Whats-the-use-of-ethical-philosophy-the-role-of-ethical-theory-in-special)
Lewin_EJSNE_2014_Whats_the_use_of_ethical_philosophy_the_role_of_ethical_theory_in_special.pdf
Accepted Author Manuscript

Download (407kB) | Preview

Abstract

This article examines the relevance of modern moral philosophy to education, with particular reference to special educational needs. Where moral philosophers explore the tension between utilitarian and deontological reasoning, they often consider the balance between the rights of the individual and the benefits or costs for the majority. I argue that the debate is predicated on a false dichotomy between minority and majority which is best overcome by a return to virtue ethics. In exploring this ethical debate, I draw on a case study from Australia of a student excluded from mainstream education on the basis that inclusion will not serve the greater good of the majority of students. My intention here is not to offer practical guidance in the complex day-to-day deliberations of educators dealing with issues of inclusion, but to elaborate the structure of the present thinking about inclusion. It is hoped that an appreciation of the deeper basis of ethical reasoning will itself lead to a greater recognition of the need for exploring the ethical grounds of teaching and learning. I will argue that any dichotomy between the utilitarian happiness of the many and the deontological commitment to the rights of the individual is based on a misconception of human identity. The false choice between the many and the one rests upon the assumption that morality is fundamentally about restricting personal preferences in favour of the good of the majority, that there exists a fundamental conflict between what is good for the individual and what is good for society as a whole. This will lead me to argue that we need to reinterpret human identity as constituted by its social relations and that this reorientation is best achieved by reference to virtue ethics.