A Code of Ethics for Teaching Artists?

Last week I participated in a workshop geared towards Engineers in which the topic of conversation was Ethics. In this workshop, several different Codes were presented from varying countries, etc. As I listened my mind could not help to wander to my own profession…to my knowledge, no Code of Ethics exists. There is no equivalent of a Hippocratic Oath for the Teaching Artist profession…and I earnestly feel that what we do is no less crucial to life and the well-being of those we work with. Is it enough that each individual artist produce their own Code of Ethics? Should there be a standardized code that everyone knows and adheres to? I think about the principles that I bring to my work and what I believe in…should there be a shared buy in to that across the board? For further food for thought I’m going to paste in the National Education Associations Code of Ethics for teachers, as well as the National Art Education Associations Code of Ethics for Art Educators:


Code of Ethics
The National Education Association believes that the education profession consists of one education workforce serving the needs of all students and that the term ‘educator’ includes education support professionals.

The educator, believing in the worth and dignity of each human being, recognizes the supreme importance of the pursuit of truth, devotion to excellence, and the nurture of the democratic principles. Essential to these goals is the protection of freedom to learn and to teach and the guarantee of equal educational opportunity for all. The educator accepts the responsibility to adhere to the highest ethical standards.

The educator recognizes the magnitude of the responsibility inherent in the teaching process. The desire for the respect and confidence of one’s colleagues, of students, of parents, and of the members of the community provides the incentive to attain and maintain the highest possible degree of ethical conduct. The Code of Ethics of the Education Profession indicates the aspiration of all educators and provides standards by which to judge conduct.

The remedies specified by the NEA and/or its affiliates for the violation of any provision of this Code shall be exclusive and no such provision shall be enforceable in any form other than the one specifically designated by the NEA or its affiliates.

Commitment to the Student
The educator strives to help each student realize his or her potential as a worthy and effective member of society. The educator therefore works to stimulate the spirit of inquiry, the acquisition of knowledge and understanding, and the thoughtful formulation of worthy goals.

In fulfillment of the obligation to the student, the educator–

1. Shall not unreasonably restrain the student from independent action in the pursuit of learning.

2. Shall not unreasonably deny the student’s access to varying points of view.

3. Shall not deliberately suppress or distort subject matter relevant to the student’s progress.

4. Shall make reasonable effort to protect the student from conditions harmful to learning or to health and safety.

5. Shall not intentionally expose the student to embarrassment or disparagement.

6. Shall not on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, national origin, marital status, political or religious beliefs, family, social or cultural background, or sexual orientation, unfairly–

Exclude any student from participation in any program
Deny benefits to any student
Grant any advantage to any student
7. Shall not use professional relationships with students for private advantage.

8. Shall not disclose information about students obtained in the course of professional service unless disclosure serves a compelling professional purpose or is required by law.

Commitment to the Profession
The education profession is vested by the public with a trust and responsibility requiring the highest ideals of professional service.

In the belief that the quality of the services of the education profession directly influences the nation and its citizens, the educator shall exert every effort to raise professional standards, to promote a climate that encourages the exercise of professional judgment, to achieve conditions that attract persons worthy of the trust to careers in education, and to assist in preventing the practice of the profession by unqualified persons.

In fulfillment of the obligation to the profession, the educator–

1. Shall not in an application for a professional position deliberately make a false statement or fail to disclose a material fact related to competency and qualifications.

2. Shall not misrepresent his/her professional qualifications.

3. Shall not assist any entry into the profession of a person known to be unqualified in respect to character, education, or other relevant attribute.

4. Shall not knowingly make a false statement concerning the qualifications of a candidate for a professional position.

5. Shall not assist a noneducator in the unauthorized practice of teaching.

6. Shall not disclose information about colleagues obtained in the course of professional service unless disclosure serves a compelling professional purpose or is required by law.

7. Shall not knowingly make false or malicious statements about a colleague.

8. Shall not accept any gratuity, gift, or favor that might impair or appear to influence professional decisions or action.

Adopted by the NEA 1975 Representative Assembly


1.  Demonstrates honesty and integrity in all profession endeavors.
2.  Promotes art as a basic discipline in the education of all students.
3.  Advocates art instruction by certified art educators.
4.  Fosters art instruction that includes the study of aesthetics, art criticism, art history, and art production.
5.  Respects individual artistic expressions and encourages feelings of self-worth and self-confidence.
6.  Safeguards against exploitation of art programs and students.
7.  Makes every effort to provide a safe, hazard-free learning environment.
8.  Demonstrates effort and commitment to the profession.
9.  Continues personal and professional development.
10.  Seeks ways to advance the profession of art education through membership and participation in local,  state and professional associations.
11.  Contributes actively to the support, planning and programs of the professional organizations.
12. Distinguishes between personal and organizational views when representing the art education profession.

The Professional Code for Art Educators was created by the Professional Standards Committee of the Delegates Assembly and approved by the Board of Directors in the Fall of 1986.

In conclusion, I believe I am going to work toward creating a Code of Ethics in the next couple weeks/months (I’ll give it as long as it needs investigation) and I’ll post when I’ve produced something worth scrutiny…perhaps it could be the start of something bigger…but at any rate it will be worthwhile to suss these things out for myself 🙂


PS. If you’re interested in this as well and would like to compare notes/collaborate….please let me know!