I identify myself as a hacker... not as an ethical hacker. Hacking is an art, just like martial arts or painting. Hacking is about making a device or system do some thing the designer did not originally have in mind. When you exercise your creativity you can hack anything.
So just like a mechanic, painter or a martial artist... the term hacker is right. There can be a good martial artist and a bad martial artist, you don't call those people with one word or have multiple words mixed up in a haze. Similarly there can be a good hacker and a bad hacker. Like I explained earlier, the decision to adhere to ethics is up to each and every individual. When I became a hacker, I learned that I have to protect the word and clarify our stance to the world. The media has created a bad image about hackers and bad news / press sells faster and better than "normal" news.
As far as learning goes, You can learn the basics and then work on your own - for a few years to achieve good competency. Hacking your own XBox for example to store movies and stream it - on to your LCD Television is legal, provided you paid for the movies and the gaming console... ;) If you don't pay for the movies, but download them from the internet... then it is illegal.
The society / media that waves the "Ethical Hacker" tag must understand - The term is an oxymoron at best and incorrect. I am no lawyer, so I can't comment on Ethics of hacking or any deed. Mahabharata says there is no good or bad deed. Western culture also agrees with the same in multiple scripts that: all deeds are situational, whether good or bad depends on each individual's own judgement and justification. People mix things up badly and have a perception of smoke and mirrors created by the media about hackers.
We're simple people and we like breaking stuff for a living, just like software engineers build stuff for a living. Hacking can therefore be termed as creative destruction of a given system or program.
I'm taking a break from work soon, summer's here yipppeeeee :)