Teaching is a significant social good and therefore teachers as well as the state have to take responsibility for guarding the moral quality of the teaching practice. Based on this premise, the article describes and defends the view that these parties have their own particular role by means of literature review and theoretical and practical arguments. The role of the state is necessarily limited to defining minimal moral rules and obligations, because in liberal Western democracies morality is codified in law to a minimal degree. The state also has practical reasons for such a confined position, among which are the complexities of professional practice and its implied tacit knowledge. Teachers have to take responsibility for constructing the full width of professional morality, but particularly for defining its optimal or aspirational dimension. This dimension comprises the virtues deemed important for teachers as well as their professional ideals. Whereas the literature on professional ethics of teachers is relatively silent about professional ideals, several arguments are provided for the importance of ideals for teachers. The final part of the article defends the claim that teachers have to articulate their professional ideals through intra-professional dialogue. Again, theoretical and practical arguments are provided, for instance that such a debate provokes teachers to think about the best aims and means of their profession and that it contributes to the sense and meaning of their work. The article ends with some practical implications of the theoretical exposé. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.