Professional Integrity--CORE VALUES
In the succinct words of Professor Emeritus Malham M. Wakin, Brig Gen. USAF (Ret.),
U.S. Air Force Academy, “Professional integrity derives its substance from the
fundamental goals or mission of the profession.” The following are excerpts from his
treatise on Integrity titled “Professional Integrity” published in Airpower Journal -
We need an ordered society; we want to be treated fairly; we seek justice. We train
our judges and our lawyers in law schools supported by the community because of
the important value that we place on justice. Similarly, we know how crucial
education is to our society so we provide for the training of teachers; we know how
important security is to our nation-state so we provide military academies and
military training for the members of the military profession.
No member of the professions (doctors, lawyers, teachers…etc) can escape these ties
to the community since they constitute the very reason for the existence of the
professions. Thus, professional integrity begins with this necessary responsibility to
serve the fundamental need of the community. Notice that the community makes
possible the opportunity for one to become qualified in a given profession and
usually allows the professionals the authority themselves to set the standards of
competence and conduct of its members.
Members of the public professions are thus educated and supported by the society
because of the critical services the professions provide. In the case of teachers in
public institutions and in the case of the military profession, practitioners are
supported from the public coffers during their entire careers. Clearly, some of the
role specific obligations are based on this relationship and on the authority to act on
behalf of the entire society which is literally bestowed on these professionals. With
the authority to act goes the public trust and violations of that trust are serious
breaches of professional integrity.
Professional integrity derives its substance from the fundamental goals or mission of
If our preprofessional preparation does not inculcate the habits of professional
integrity, can we have confidence that those habits will be practiced by these same
individuals when they become licensed professionals?
How are personal integrity and professional integrity related? There are varying
opinions about this. Some people believe that one can live up to high standards of
competence and conduct in one's professional role -- at the hospital, in the school, at
the military base -- but live an entirely different kind of moral life outside the
professional context in one's private life.
What I wish to argue is that since professions exist to serve society's need for
important values (education, health, justice, security, etc.), the means used to
provide those values and services should be morally decent means and the persons
in the professions who provide them should be morally decent persons.
Put in more direct terms, good teachers ought to be good persons, good doctors
ought to be good persons, good lawyers ought to be good persons and good military
professionals ought to be good persons. We want to live in a world where the duties
of a competent professional can be carried out by a good person with a clear and
confident conscience. That means that professional practices must always be
constrained by basic moral principles.
When professions go beyond their essential service function to society and distort
their purpose toward profits, power, or greed then they lose the trust and respect of
their communities -- they stop being professions. Do you do what you say you do?