The teacher always strives to treat all of her students fairly and teach them the best that she absolutely can, but once in a while a questionable scenario arises that calls her ethics into duty. This is the case one day when she finds herself cornered at work.
The school operates on the quarter system. During Week 10 of Quarter Four of last year, the school's Registrar approaches the teacher to tell her that she 'needs' to pass a particular student, regardless of his performance and the fact that did not attend class at all for the first 10 weeks. The Registrar informs the teacher that it is the student's final quarter and that he has a job lined up for him upon graduation that is going to make the school look really good. She also informs the teacher that the Director of Education has sent explicit instructions that the teacher is to pass the students with no questions asked per her demand.
The teacher is in absolute shock, is confused, and has no idea what to do in this situation. If she were to pass the student, it would be completely unfair to the other students in the class. It might even be illegal. Certainly it would be against the school's accreditation standards. However, if she were to fail the student, the Registrar had made it clear that she would likely lose her job for making the school look bad if the student did not graduate and, thus, could not start working right away and the highly-regarded company in question.
The Moral Agent
The moral agent in this particular ethical scenario is the teacher. She is the individual who must make the moral decision. She has to choose between passing the student and being unfair to her other students and quite possibly disobeying the law and/or violating accreditation standards but pleasing the school's administration and keeping her job or failing the student and making the school look bad and possibly losing her job.
Two of the Ethical Theories Discussed
For the purposes of this paper, virtue theory and ethical relativism will be the theories that are applied and discussed with regard to the ethical scenario in question. "Virtue ethics is currently one of three major approaches in normative ethics. It may, initially, be identified as the one that emphasizes the virtues, or moral character, in contrast to the approach which emphasizes duties or rules (deontology) or that which emphasizes the consequences of actions" (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2008, pg. 1), whereas "Ethical relativism is the theory that holds that morality is relative to the norms of one's culture. That is, whether an action is right or wrong depends on the moral norms of the society in which it is practiced. The same action may be morally right in one society but be morally wrong in another. For the ethical relativist, there are no universal moral standards -- standards that can be universally applied to all peoples at all times" (Velasquez, et.al, 2008, pg.1).
Since ethical relativism can go either way, the culture in which the teacher was raised will determine her actions. If she looks more at herself and her own desires than at those of others, she would probably choose the safest route that allows her to keep her job since it is in her own best interest. Making this decision, she would violate her other students, but could probably keep it quiet, satisfy