Education, Profession and Culture: Some Conceptual Questions

British Journal of Educational Studies 48 (3):248 - 268 (2000)
What is it to regard the occupation of teaching as a profession -- as distinct from a trade or vocation? The conventional modern conception of a profession is that of a normative enterprise in which standards of good practice are not just technically or contractually but also morally grounded: indeed, arguably the key difference between trades like plumbing or building and professions like medicine or law is that although the former are doubtless often subject to ethical regulation, ethical principles are actually constitutive of professions. It is also plausible to regard universal professional obligations as grounded in rights indexed to considerations of human need: insofar as humans cannot in general flourish without health, medical practitioners are bound to respond to any medical need without favour or prejudice. This paper argues, however, that powerful and persuasive contemporary critiques of notions of objective or value-neutral development and flourishing raise quite serious theoretical problems (expressed here as antinomies) for any analogous view of teaching as a profession.
Keywords flourishing  profession  obligation  culture  right
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