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Arts & Letters Daily


6b. Rights - English Teacher


Legitimate – moral and legel sense


Duty. “Do I have any obligations beyond my responsibilities to teach my English classes?” pondered Mrs. Wall, a second year teacher at Jason Secondary School. “I’m quite clear about my responsibilities; they are outlined in the contract I signed with my school district. But, I’m not so clear about my obligations. Can my Principal obligate me to assume tasks not covered by my contract? I get the feeling he can. It’s a somewhat delicate question; that’s why I am reluctant to ask her about it. Who can I ask?”

Rights. This issue came up at a staff meeting recently. The History teacher, Mr. Beatty, argued that it was not legitimate for the Principal to assign unilaterally whatever duties to any staff person. He had neither a legal or moral right to do so. Needless to say, this created some tension between the teacher and the Principal who felt could use his discretion in assigning duties since he was responsible for managing all school affairs.


  • Do you agree with Mr. Beatty? Explain
  • Do you agree with the Principal? Explain.
  • Discuss other situations where people use this kind of thinking.

You may want to discuss other dilemmas.

Consider this view of ‘legitimate’

  • Crooked thinking

‘Legitimate’ is used appropriately only in a legal sense.

  • Straight thinking

‘Legitimate’ is also used in a moral sense although it is more often used in a legal sense. To say that “John set up a legitimate research centre” is to say that John had a right to set up the centre. That right was conferred on John upon completion of his medical training. On the other hand, to say that “John’s activities are illegitimate” means that John did not have the legal right or moral right (or both) to do them.

Moral principle value tests

An application of the moral principle value tests probably illustrates most clearly what is entailed in evaluative reasoning. They are:

It is important to emphasize that the moral-value principle tests are not designed to resolve issues (guarantee right answers!) but to assess the ‘justification’ for moral value decisions.

To view the Dilemma from the perspective of Duty, Rights, Motives, Desert and Justice, click the following:

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