Moral Education and the Liberal Arts

Moral Education and the Liberal Arts

Moral Education and the Liberal Arts

Moral Education and the Liberal Arts

Synopsis

Education shapes character, particularly through the liberal arts. This collection of essays explores the importance of moral education to the liberal arts and discusses how moral education fosters character development. The contributors examine the meaning of moral education, the rationale for promoting ethical values in an academic environment, and the conditions under which morality can best be taught. Though the text addresses philosophical issues, the essays focus on how the liberal arts institution can implement moral education to fulfill its objectives.

Excerpt

A liberal arts institution, whether it is a college or a university, is not usually viewed as a moral authority. We do not send our children to college in order to learn how to act morally but to acquire expertise in certain types of knowledge or skill, such as psychology, engineering, physics, law, or biology. We hope, however, that when they graduate they will be "educated" people, in the sense that they will be ready for practical life and have a good grasp of the rudiments and achievements of our civilization. The notion or expectation that a college is a "moral teacher" is secondary, if not alien, to most parents. And even if some parents think that a college should participate in the moral growth of their children, they do not take this expectation seriously, primarily because a college lacks moral authority. But even if such an authority existed, it may not be desirable, for what the parents understand by "morality" may be quite different from what the college understands by it. We live in a pluralistic society. This fact undermines, at least theoretically, the possibility of establishing a moral agency that oversees and manages the moral life of the students.

And yet a large number of parents, educators, social critics, and political leaders have, during the past few years, pleaded with colleges to play a positive role in the moral cultivation of our youth. What is it that prompts concerned citizens to make this plea? Is this plea symptomatic of what some critics have called "moral crisis," "moral paralysis," "moral decline," or "moral vacuum" in our society?

It may well be that we are in the midst of a moral crisis or change in our moral posture. We should investigate the social and historical causes of this . . .

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