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date: 22 June 2017

Teachers as Conscientious Objectors

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.

Teaching is a moral profession. The moral dimensions of the profession extend beyond the moral behavior that teachers are expected to model for students and the explicit moral lessons they may offer. Many teachers enter the profession hoping to do good in the world and to contribute to the well-being of their students and society. However, some educational reform policies and strategies have led teachers to ask if what they are asked to do in the name of their profession might cause more harm than good. Teachers who refuse to enact policies and practices may be represented by the popular media and in educational research as merely recalcitrant or insubordinate. This perspective misses the moral dimensions of the work—teachers may refuse from a standpoint of professional conscience, and teachers acting as conscientious objectors may resign if they believe that they will harm students, society, their disciplines, or their profession through their work.