It is common for a person in authority to find himself or herself facing ethical dilemmas, especially when it comes to making difficult decisions. According to Balachandran (53), there is always the desire to make a decision that would be beneficial to one. On the other hand, there will be the desire to do what is good both morally and legally. When one is faced with such a dilemma, decision-making becomes very complex.
There will be a duel in one’s mind as the force to engage in an unethical act battles with the desire to do what is right. In most of the cases, the physical desires would prevail over the moral authority, unless one has strict principles. The problem with such unethical behavior is that other people are always hurt. When one engages in selfish acts to meet personal desires, it is always at someone else’s expense. The perpetrator and the victim of such acts always suffer, but in different ways.
While the victims suffer directly in the form of material loss, physical or mental torture, the perpetrator will have to bear the burden of guilt. The perpetrator’s conscious will be disturbed as he or she tries to live with the fact that that act caused pain to others. It is for this reason that Todd (391) encourages people to behave ethically even if it may not lead to financial rewards. The researcher will focus on a case study of ethical dilemma at Normandy Crossing School
Ethical Dilemmas the Teachers Faced
The teaching staffs at Normandy Crossing Elementary School were a motivated lot when they were informed about the financial incentives they would gain in case their students excelled (Richardson and Kehoe 41). There was a massive pressure from the stakeholders in the education sector on the teachers to ensure that learners excelled in their examinations. Parents wanted good results, and educational authorities were very strict when it came to the performance posted by each school on every subject.
For the top performers, a reward would come from parents, schools’ administration, and the employer. On the other hand, teachers who posted poor results were considered failure and they faced a lot of heart from various quarters. This was a situation of carrot and stick. Great performance was synonymous with great rewards, while poor performance would result into rebuke or even demotion. The irony in this entire system was that the learners faced no form of pressure other than from their teachers.
When exerting this pressure on the learners, what these stakeholders forgot was that the actual person sitting the exams would be the learner. As Balachandran (42) notes, a teacher can be very efficient in delivering content to the students, but unless there is an equal effort from the students to understand these concepts, the effort of the teacher would go into a waste. When setting these standards, the stakeholders also forgot about the responsibility of parents in ensuring that their children excelled in exams.
The environment in which a child is subjected back at homes has a significant influence on its performance. However, the stakeholders ignored all these factors and the responsibility of ensuring that learners were successful was given to the teachers. Teachers were promised a reward of $ 2,850 in case their students excelled in their exams.
The pressure was not only on the teachers, but also on the school’s administration. The career of the principal and assistant principal largely depended on the performance of the learners.
The performance of the school was considered a direct effort by the school’s administration. For this reason, the principal and his deputy at Normandy Crossing Elementary School were determined to ensure that their students performed exceptionally well in order to boost their career growth. They made an effort to ensure that all the teachers remained motivated and committed to their work.
The ethical dilemma came when it was time to sit for the exams. Despite the effort that had been put in place by the teachers and the school’s administration, there was still a feeling of doubt about the possible outcome. When exam papers were released to the school by the district board, there was a temptation to cheat in the exam. Without any external supervisors, the decision to cheat fully depended on the school’s administration and the teachers.
They could easily break the seal, see through the questions, and develop study guides for the students based on them. The administration tried to overcome this temptation, but the desire to gain promotion and glory out of good performance was too great to be ignored. At last, the principal and his assistant gave in to the pressure and allowed some of the teachers to get the content of the exams so that they could prepare their students.
The desire to get the financial rewards that teachers were promised was also very great on the side of these teachers. Unfortunately, this malpractice was discovered when Galena Park Independent School District was commissioned to investigate the issue (Richardson and Kehoe 41).
It was discovered that there was a conspiracy between the administration and specific teachers to cheat in the exams. Several malpractices in handling the exams were discovered, and all indicated that the top management unit of the school was involved. When this revelation was made, the principal and his deputy resigned as a way of taking the responsibility of what happened. The learners who were given the leakage had their results cancelled, and were forced to re-sit the class.
Instead of the expected glory, the school’s image was tainted not only within the district but also in the entire state. It became a point of references to the stakeholders in the education sector whenever the issue of ethical behavior arose. To the teachers, this was a nightmare as the school was put on a tight watch whenever there was an external exam, something that was not seen at other school. In fact, some of the teachers felt intimidated by the negative attention the school got within the society.
How to Avoid Unethical Behavior in the Face of a Dilemma
Avoiding unethical behavior may appear to be a simple task, but Balachandran (55) warns that it takes many guts to do what is right. The case presented above presents the dilemma that many people face when making an ethical decision. In most of the cases, one would find a good justification before engaging in an unethical behavior. For instance, the administrators considered a number of factors before allowing the concerned teachers to engage in exam cheating.
The justification could have been the skewed approach that the stakeholders used when demanding for the results. The parents were not doing enough for their children but insisted on good results. Another justification could have been that the educational directors were doing very little to hire enough teachers, yet they insisted on good results.
For these reasons, they felt that these stakeholders were biased and lacked moral authority to demand for good results from the learners. After making these justifications, it was easier to authorize exam malpractice that was witnessed. For this reason, it is important to note that the first step towards avoiding unethical behavior is to avoid any form of justification. As Todd (392) once noted, two mistakes do not add up to make amend. Once it is clear that something is wrong then nothing else can justify it.
Personal desires are the top reason why people engage in unethical behavior. The desire to climb the career ladder very fast or to get material gains without straining would lead a person to engage in acts that may hurt others. This is brought out clearly in this case study. The two administrators were interested in their career development.
The teachers desired the financial rewards and other promotional benefits. The learners wanted good results even without understanding the concepts that they needed to know. With such self-centered interests, it was easier for them to come together as a unit and engage in the malpractice. The ability to overcome these self-centered desires is an important step towards avoiding unethical behavior.
The ability of an individual to hold on to specific principles would also define one’s ability to remain ethical. According to Naqvi and Daubeney (1426), sometimes an individual may be faced with serious ethical issue that may require critical thinking before coming up with a solution. In some cases, the right solution may be what that majority do not desire.
For this reason, it is important to ensure one is guided by principles, not the desire to please the majority. If a decision to make a given decision goes against one’s principles, then one should reject them and stick to what he or she believe is right. The principles should guide one out of the dilemma.
Finally, one should understand that unethical behavior always has serious negative consequences that may be felt either immediately or after some time. When such consequences come, their impact is always greater than the satisfaction that was generated by the unethical act. For instance, the administrators expected advancement in their career.
However, their unethical act destroyed that career. Similarly, the learners who expected good outcome had their results completely cancelled. To the concerned teachers, instead of the financial benefits and the glory they expected, they received shame and reprimand from their acts.
It is a common occurrence for one to be faced with an ethical dilemma. Students, teachers, and administration at Normandy Crossing Elementary School found themselves in this situation when the time to sit for the exam came. On one hand, they desired the benefits that come with good results. On the other hand was the need to be ethical when administering and taking the exams.
The decision was on their hand, and they chose desire for the benefits over ethical behavior. This had serious consequences on them. It is a clear demonstration that the consequences of unethical behavior can be devastating. For this reason, it is of utmost importance to ensure that one makes decision that is ethical once faced with such a dilemma.
Balachandran, S. “Edge of an Ethical Dilemma.” Archaeology, 60.6 (2007): 18-65. Print.
Naqvi, N., and Piers D. “Ethical dilemma.” Journal of Social Ethics 339.7735 (2009): 1426. Print.
Richardson, J., and William K. Annual Editions: Business Ethics 12/13. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012. Print.
Todd, J. “An Ethical Dilemma.” The British Business Journal 2.6186 (2008): 391-392. Print.