Special Issue on Ethics


  • Gerald S. Fain


Why would anyone want to be a therapeutic recreator? The salaries, prestige, job security or public recognition do not provide compelling rationale. Because the jobs are not particularly competitive in these ways, there must be other reasons. Perhaps a more compelling rationale could be found by examining the mission, or values perceived to be present in the field. From my experience it is easy to find practitioners who tend to be more concerned with values than personal betterment; people who are typically more concerned with what they are doing to advance the interests of their clients than their health insurance, retirement plan or even salary scale. In a general sense, I read our history in this way and am convinced that without this strong values orientation, there would be no unifying theme to compel a neophyte to join this profession. This orientation to service is not however sufficient. Nurses care, lawyers care, social workers care, teachers care and so do all the other people who work on behalf of others in the fields of education, rehabilitation and human service. Caring, in and of itself, idealism or humanitarianism are therefore not sufficient. It is not that therapeutic recreators care, for we observe everyone has the option to care, regardless of their field; rather it is the way the profession acts and thinks. Assuming that professional behavior is thoughtful, we can better understand what the profession cares about or values by studying how its members behave. It is this study of professional behavior, typically achieved through study of actual case reports from the field, that raises the fundamental question of "ought." These arc the questions of interest in moral philosophy and professional ethics. Given a choice, what is the "right" action? To answer this question within the dynamics of a profession one needs to know more than what he/she personally believes is the "right" action ... they need to know what their colleagues, as a collective body, consider to be "right." This question of "rightness" is instructive to the thinking that directs professional behavior. Within the context of therapeutic recreation one asks, is it "right" to require people to participate in recreation? And if so, under what circumstances and toward what end? Such questions, when raised by a knowing practitioner take on special meaning. They are not easy to answer and because they are situationally specific, seem new each time they are encountered. This special Therapeutic Recreation Journal focuses attention on these questions of ought. Articles examine some current thinking about ethics and point to an agenda designed to help us to better understand what we need to do to advance knowledge with respect to professional ethics and moral ph ilosophy. The articles selected represent a broad view of the profession. Since this is the first publication in the field exclusively devoted to the topic of professional ethics, an effort was made to provide both scope and depth on pertinent issues. In point of fact it may well represent the first collection of writings on the topic of professional ethics within the entire recreation park and leisure field. As Guest Editor, I wish to acknowledge the support from the editorial staff with special recognition to Editor Peter Witt and Associate Editors, Peg Connolly, Rich MacNeil and Andy Weiner, who assisted with the review and final editing of manuscripts.



Special Issue