Forgive me for my tongue-in-cheek response to your excellent post. Recently I linked in the ‘General Chat’ space to a blogger who discussed educational values. Clark (2016), being a blogger and can therefore be more direct than in refereed articles, makes the common-sense point that some espoused values may be meaningless. Clark’s negative test is particularly revealing in this regard. Let’s say an institution claims to be ‘friendly’. Negate this verb and see the result: an unfriendly institution! No HEI would claim this as a value, and this leads Clark to claim that the value of ‘friendliness’ is a meaningless value.
Clark’s discussion is limited because it relies only on the deconstructionist technique of locating and comparing opposites and does not discuss the agentive purpose in presenting what are clearly normative values. The act of stating one’s friendliness signals intentionality towards that value as opposed to other potential values, not in opposition to being unfriendly. However, the deeper point made by Clark is to be careful when using platitudes; “Beware of BIG words like integrity, imagination, creativity, innovation … If your values are simplistic platitudes–no one will care” (Clark, 2016).
At ADU, there is a mandatory Code of Honour that all staff must sign. Looking at the values, it contains the requirement to “perform tasks in extreme faith, transparency, competence and professionalism” (Qiqieh, 2016). Using Clark’s negation tactic, would you say that performing tasks incompetently and unprofessionally are values that are mere platitudes or are they chosen over other potential values because of their relative importance? Which values may have been included but were not, do you think, and why?
It is interesting that staff have to officially register their understanding of the Code of Honour via their signature at ADU. This is similar to the Academic Integrity Declaration that we cohort students must click prior to commencing each course. The question is if the signing/ clicking does anything more than raise awareness of particular issues and the punitive measures in place, or if it effectively delimits the inner boundaries of conduct and allows everything else. Those staff who fabricate research, accept bribes and do other actions that are now considered unethical may not have been aware of the social norms regarding those actions. Being aware of them and perhaps fearing social or structural punitive measures seems to have reduced plagiarism at ADU among students at least. But another mode of thought is possible: what is feasible beyond, or between the gaps of, those norms? Without precise definitional boundaries for actions, where does the spirit of the law (if you can forgive the figure of speech) overrun the letter of the law? Plagiarism is unacceptable, for instance, but I can easily trick Turnitin by changing enough of the original but still be within the bounds of what a human observer may consider plagiarism. Fabricating research data is considered wrong, but who can stop me integrating the casual, but relevant, remarks made to me by a colleague over a glass of wine without adding ‘personal communication’? Finally, we are required to obtain ethics clearance for the upcoming interview, yet nothing was asked of us in the entire first four modules when I’m sure that many if not most of us incorporated informant information from our institutions? Does this mean that all of that work should be disqualified?
Clark, D. (2016). 5 tests to see if your organisation’s values are bogus. Retrieved May 8, 2016, from http://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.jp/2016/04/are-your-organisational-values-bs-5-key.html
Qiqieh, S. (2016, May 8). RE: Values that Empower and Constrain. Message posted to https://my.ohecampus.com/lens/home?locale=en_us#.