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News Bulletin : ADA News Bulletin November 2010
36 NOVEMBER 2010 INTRODUCTION Professionalism is as, perhaps even more, relevant today as it was when the concept first emerged centuries ago. Defined as a combination of knowledge, skills, trustworthiness and altruism found in those who commit themselves to a life of service to others, professionalism now covers many more disciplines than the original professions of law, medicine and divinity. The professions have steadily proliferated as knowledge has expanded, requiring ever-more specialized education and spawning neo-professions. Specialized knowledge gives professionals power over their clients. Balancing the use of this power for individual and public good, while meeting their own needs, obliges professionals to behave ethically. It also attracts government regulation and provides much of the raison d'être for professional associations. The internet, diminution of self-employment and erosion of public trust are combining to threaten many of the benefits of professionalism. True understanding of professionalism suggests that it remains indispensable to humanity and will continue to evolve its role in society. In 1853, a meeting of one of the most influential professional associations in the world toasted the three classical professions: divinity, law and medicine. Attendees at this American Medical Association convention noted with self-congratulation that the three professions were profoundly interrelated: "Three graces, all of which combined, support each other" (Imber, 2008, p. 13). Is there something about the professions that binds different disciplines together? If so, what is this underlying essence of professionalism? And is it still relevant in today's world? This essay maintains that there is an important essence underlying all the professions that must remain relevant if humanity is to continue to derive benefit from professional services. The concept of 'professionalism' includes skills, knowledge and expertise, but also the virtues of trustworthiness and altruism. Josef Mengele of Auschwitz, with his infamous human experiments, was a learned doctor and scientist -- but no one would call him a professional. Professionalism as set forth in the early Dialogues of Plato holds that the true professional not only possesses the practical skills and knowledge of his or her trade (tekhne in Greek) but is also disciplined in moral excellence (arête) (Reid, 1998). This essay examines the notion of professionalism itself against the background of history and modern definitions. Further, the essay explores how professional associations and professional services contribute to professionalism, and assesses the impact of culture, economics, technology and government. Finally, the essay poses the question as to whether professionalism will survive the process of globalization as knowledge 'goes viral,' and offers suggestions why it should. THE MEANING OF PROFESSIONALISM The classic 'learned' professions were divinity, law and medicine the trinity of the professions. This was recognized by British demographer Alexander M. Carr-Saunders in his definitive work The Professions, wherein he cited Joseph Addison, writing in 1711, as a source. Carr-Saunders, though, argued that the original professions were five: divinity, armed service, medicine, law and education (Carr-Saunders & Wilson, 1933). However, it may be said that the five professions Carr-Saunders depicted were outgrowths of the big three or the original trinity: the military/police were an outgrowth of law because of the need for enforcement, and education evolved from the profession of divinity -- for, in medieval times, the clergy were the most learned of the various social ranks, and education became their special purview. For example, as early as the 1500s a schoolmaster needed to be licensed by the church in order to teach grammar (Cheetham & Chivers, 2005, p. 17). Indeed, the dissemination of academic learning had been dominated by monks and priests for centuries prior to this, and most of the universities of Christendom Why professionalism is still relevant* Part I By George Beaton This is the first of a two-part article by George Beaton that will be of interest to members.
ADA News Bulletin October 2010
ADA News Bulletin December 2010