An ethic of care: A study of its presence or absence in the lives of Jesuit secondary students

Marianne Elizabeth Conway, Fordham University


This exploratory study examined the presence or absence of an ethic of care in three Jesuit secondary schools. Each school represented a different Jesuit Province, a different history, a different student profile, and a different set of socioeconomic characteristics. The research questions lent themselves to qualitative methodology. At the three participating schools, this researcher investigated the President, each of whom was a member of the Society of Jesus. The three Principals, each of whom was a layman, were also interviewed, as were members of each faculty. The researcher formally interviewed 20 students, and informally interviewed many more students at each of the schools. Extensive document analysis took place prior to, during, and after the on-site research was conducted. Coupled with these 2 sources of data was in-depth participant observation. Through a process of triangulation, the interpretation of the data was confirmed. The research resulted in the emergence of 5 dominant themes reflecting students' experiences of feeling cared for in Jesuit secondary schools, and 5 dominant themes reflecting students' experiences of not feeling cared for in Jesuit secondary schools. Students felt cared for in the following ways: (a) by a caring faculty, (b) through opportunities for spiritual development, (c) through acceptance of diversity, (d) through a strong academic foundation, and (e) through an inclusive extracurricular program. Students identified 5 areas in which they did not feel cared or cared for in a less-than-consistent manner. These areas included: (a) abusive language spoken and tolerated; (b) treatment of homosexual students and issues revolving around sexual orientation; (c) lack of awareness of, and care for, students having a difficult time “fitting in”; (d) uninvolved faculty; and (e) the perception of a spirit of elitism. The findings underscored the importance of presenting and fostering the specifically Ignatian mandate of cura personalis, that is, care for each person. The students' voices indicated that this was especially true in relationship to faculty members. The impact of teachers' styles of interacting, both positively and negatively, with students was a constant theme discussed during formal and informal interviews. Other aspects of the secondary school experience were cited as examples of the presence of an ethic of care, but none of these aspects received the depth of importance that was given to expressions of care from faculty members. The findings also highlighted the students' ability to identify those experiences that have not been characterized by an ethic of care. These were areas within the Jesuit secondary school experience that call for the attention of every member of the community, the development of strategies that will foster a lived experience of an ethic of care, and a commitment on the part of every member of each Jesuit secondary school community to model an ethic of care.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Conway, Marianne Elizabeth, "An ethic of care: A study of its presence or absence in the lives of Jesuit secondary students" (2002). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3056136.