Undergraduate Education and the Development
of Moral and Civic Responsibility
Anne Colby and Thomas Ehrlich
with Elizabeth Beaumont and Jason Stephens
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
We are among those increasingly concerned about two related trends in contemporary
American culture-excessive individualism and moral relativism on the one hand and popular
disdain for civic engagement, particularly political involvement, on the other. In our view,
undergraduate years are an important time for developing in students moral and civic
responsibility that can help reverse these trends. This essay describes our work-in-progress,
under the auspices of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, to analyze the
American undergraduate scene in terms of efforts to promote students' moral and civic
responsibility and to encourage our colleges and universities to strengthen those efforts.
Some people who have written about these issues have focused exclusively on civic
responsibility, avoiding the more controversial area of morality (e.g., Barber, 1998). We include
moral as well as civic responsibility in the scope of our project, because we believe the two are
inseparable. Our democratic principles, including tolerance and respect for others, procedural
impartiality, and concern for both the rights of the individual and the welfare of the group, are all
grounded in moral principles. Likewise, the problems that the civically engaged citizen must
confront always include strong moral themes - for example, fair access to resources such as
housing, the moral obligation to consider future generations in making environmental policy, and
the conflicting claims of multiple stakeholders in community decision-making. None of these
issues can be adequately resolved without a consideration of moral questions. A person can
become civically and politically active without good judgment and a strong moral compass, but it
is hardly wise to promote that kind of involvement. Because civic responsibility is inescapably
threaded with moral values, we believe that higher education must aspire to foster both moral and
civic maturity and must confront educationally the many links between them.
What do we mean by "moral" and by "civic"? We consider "moral," in its broadest
sense, to include matters of values both personal and public. As we use the term, "morality" is
not confined to a specific sphere of life or action, nor is it necessarily tied to religion. In
advocating moral engagement, we are not promoting any particular moral or meta-ethical
viewpoint. Rather, we are interested in fostering more thoughtful moral reflection generally and
the adoption of viewpoints and commitments that emerge from reasoned consideration. We
believe that higher education should encourage and facilitate the development of students'
capacities to examine complex situations in which competing values are often at stake, to employ
both substantive knowledge and moral reasoning to evaluate the problems and values involved,
to develop their own judgments about those issues, and then to act on their judgments.
We consider "civic" to range over all social spheres beyond the family, from
neighborhoods and local communities to state, national, and cross-national arenas. Political
engagement is a particular subset of civic engagement that is required for sustaining American
democracy. We are not promoting a single type of civic or political engagement, but instead
urging that the effective operation of social systems and the successful achievement of collective
goals demand the time, attention, understanding, and action of all citizens. Institutions of higher
education have both the opportunity and obligation to cultivate in their graduates an appreciation
for the responsibilities and rewards of civic engagement, as well as to foster the capacities
necessary for thoughtful participation in public discourse and effective participation in social
In general terms, we believe that a morally and civically responsible individual
recognizes himself or herself as a member of a larger social fabric and therefore considers social
problems to be at least partly his or her own; such an individual is willing to see the moral and
civic dimensions of issues, to make and justify informed moral and civic judgments, and to take
action when appropriate.
We believe that moral and civic development is enhanced by mutually interdependent
sets of knowledge, virtues, and skills. Because they are interdependent, no simple listing of
attributes is adequate. Such a listing may imply that the elements involved have precise
definitions and parameters that might be gained through a single course or even from reading a
few books. We have come to understand through studying various colleges and universities that
this is not the case. Instead, enriching the moral and civic responsibility of all members of the
campus community is best achieved through the cumulative, interactive effect of numerous
curricular and extracurricular programs, within an environment of sustained institutional
commitment to these overarching goals.
By listing important representatives from these sets of knowledge, virtues, and skills
below, we do not mean to assert that they are either necessary or sufficient for all situations or
circumstances. We focus on those that we believe are central to moral and civic development
and integral to a sound undergraduate education. This should not be understood to imply that one
cannot be a morally and civically responsible person without attending college, only that a
college education can and should enhance these attributes and capacities.
Included in the core knowledge we consider integral to moral and civic learning is
knowledge of basic ethical concepts and principles, such as justice and equity, and how they
have been interpreted by various seminal thinkers. Also included is a comprehension of the
diversity of American society and global cultures, and an understanding of both the institutions
and processes of American and international civic, political, and economic affairs. Finally, deep
substantive knowledge of the particular issues in which one is engaged is critical.
This core of knowledge cannot be separated from the virtues and skills that a morally and
civically responsible individual should strive to attain. The virtues and skills we have in mind
are not distinct to moral and civic learning but are necessary for active engagement in many
personal and professional realms. Among the core virtues is the willingness to engage in critical
self-examination and to form reasoned commitments, balanced by open-mindedness and a
willingness to listen to and take seriously the ideas of others. Moral and civic responsibility also
requires honesty in dealings with others, and in holding oneself accountable for one's action and
inactions. Without a basis of trust, and habits of cooperation, no community can operate
effectively. Empathy and compassion are also needed, not only for relating to those in one's
immediate social sphere, but for relating to those in the larger society as well. Willingness to
form moral and civic commitments and to act on those is a core virtue that puts the others into
Finally, the core skills of moral and civic responsibility are essential for applying core
knowledge and virtues, transforming informed judgments into action. They include the abilities
to recognize the moral and civic dimensions of issues and to take a stand on those issues. But
they also include skills that apply to much broader arenas of thought and behavior, such as
abilities to communicate clearly orally and in writing, to collect, organize, and analyze
information, to think critically and to justify positions with reasoned arguments, to see issues
from the perspectives of others and to collaborate with others. They also include the ability and
willingness to lead, to build a consensus, and to move a group forward under conditions of
Many contemporary critics have decried the excessive individualism of contemporary
American culture and its negative implications for our society (Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan,
Swidler, & Tipton, 1991; Putnam, 1995a, 1995b, 1996). The consequences of this cultural
climate include a growing sense that Americans are not responsible for or accountable to each
other; a decline in civility, mutual respect, and tolerance; and the preeminence of self-interest and
individual preference over concern for the common good. Goals of personal advancement and
gratification dominate our culture, frequently at the expense of broader social, moral, or spiritual
meaning. Though this emphasis on individual success has some social benefits, it can also entail
high social costs by promoting a world view in which there is no basis for enduring commitment
beyond the self. The most visible alternative to this focus on self-interest is a kind of orthodox
and intolerant moralism. Ironically, each of these opposing moral approaches leads to the same
result: a society which is increasingly polarized and fragmented, with little sense of being united
by shared values, or of participation in a common enterprise.
The second trend in contemporary American life is closely related to the first and no less
disturbing-a widespread lack of interest in civic affairs, especially political affairs, and a general
lack of trust in and respect for American democratic processes. This trend is manifested in an
overall decline in civic and political participation and in the ascendence of superficial
sloganeering over thoughtful and honest public debate. Demographic data indicate that political
disaffection is especially pronounced among youth. Americans growing up in recent decades
vote less often than their elders and show lower levels of social trust and knowledge of politics
Putnam, 1995c; Bennett & Rademacher, 1997). These shifts accompany a steep rise in the
importance attached to "having lots of money" (Rahn & Transue, 1997). Data from annual
Freshman Surveys indicate that the percentage of college freshmen who report frequently
discussing politics dropped from a high of 30% in 1968 to15% in 1995. Similar decreases were
seen in percentages who believe it is important to keep up to date with political affairs or who
have worked on a political campaign (Sax & Astin, 1997; Astin, Parrot, Korn, & Sax, 1997).
This rapidly growing political apathy bodes ill for the future of American democracy, unless
these generations of young people come to see both the value of and necessity for political
Many social critics (e.g., Barber, 1984) have written eloquently about these problems and
the need for moral and civic renewal if we are to move toward a more cohesive and humane
society. A number of national reports have been issued in recent years diagnosing the problem
and proposing steps to promote these social goals. We have been struck, however, that many of
these reports (e.g., National Commission on Civic Renewal, 1998; Council on Civil Society,
1998) pay minimal attention to the role of higher education in helping to shape the moral and
civic lives of students and American culture more generally. Moreover, when higher education
is discussed, it is sometimes considered part of the problem rather than part of the solution, a
critical perspective that is shared by those writing from within the field along with those from the
A number of university commentators, such as Alexander Astin (1996) and Benjamin
Barber (1991, 1992) have persuasively argued that the pursuit of institutional excellence in
higher education should not be focused primarily on resource-acquisition and reputation-building. This misplaced emphasis can recreate at the institutional level the kind of competitive
individualism that so troubles us in society at large. It encourages institutions to set standards of
excellence based on the qualifications of their incoming students, rather than value added in
terms of their learning -- academic, moral, and civic -- and increased engagement with the world
We also share the concerns of commentators (Astin, 1996, in press; Barber, 1991, 1992
Bellah, et al., 1992; Sullivan, 1999) that much of contemporary higher education has become an
"education industry," which is responsive to market pressures, concentrating on preparing
workers suited to American industry and giving students skills to compete economically, so that
they can lead more comfortable and affluent lives. Individual students are too often treated
solely as consumers who invest time and money in higher education in order to receive future
economic benefits. This corporate model of higher education imports the value assumptions,
language, and administrative policies of the business world, including marketing and market
research, corporate management strategies, and aggressive public-relations campaigns.
Borrowing these practices from the business world may help to increase the efficiency
and effectiveness of institutions of higher education, and has no doubt made schools more
responsive to the interests of their students.(1) Overuse of the corporate model, however, risks
obscuring the traditional and important differences between profit-making businesses and non-profit educational institutions. Although financial viability is an obvious prerequisite to the
continued existence of a college or university, the ultimate criteria for setting and evaluating
priorities and policies should be a concern for the educational growth of students, seen in the
light of their future roles as productive citizens and the social value of the scholarship and service
generated by the institution.
The use of a corporate model for universities may not seem to affect significantly
students' experience, since the inner workings of an institutional administration are largely
invisible to students. But, as we have seen at each of the schools our project has studied, the
values that animate the most critical decisions of an institution do contribute to its moral culture,
and reveal either a high degree of integrity of purpose or discrepancies between espoused values
and institutional commitments that are perceived as hypocritical and undermine the institution's
Accommodations to and even encouragement of narrow vocationalism by colleges and
universities may well contribute to the excessive individualism of contemporary life and impede
the moral and civic development of students. Currently, most students (and their parents)
consider career preparation the primary purpose of their undergraduate education, even at small
liberal arts colleges (Hersh & Yaneklovich, 1997). Moreover, the overwhelming majority of
undergraduates are majoring in a discipline because they believe it provides the quickest and
safest route to high-paid employment, which has made business the number one major at
American colleges and universities (U.S. Department of Education, 1996). Our criticism is not
that vocationalism is an invalid or unworthy education goal, for clearly it is a very important one.
Rather, our concern is that the current emphasis on vocationalism is often disconnected from
other goals, and that schools do not encourage students to think about a vocation as something
larger and potentially far richer than simple careerism. While the special nature of colleges and
universities gives them the opportunity to embed the occupational goals of students in a broader
and more socially meaningful framework, many institutions do not take this as a serious
institutional responsibility. When vocationalism is placed at the center of the educational
enterprise, at the expense of the larger and more public-minded purposes of education, its impact
can be deeply corrosive on the character and future aspirations of graduates.
Vocationalism need not, and should not, be inconsistent with the goals of a traditional
liberal arts education, nor should it be treated as a goal that is separate and distinct from those of
moral and civic responsibility. Work is central to the lives of most adults. Work is a primary
domain in which we have the opportunity to contribute to the welfare of others or to the
community more broadly. Work is also one of the two or three most important places where we
look to find meaning in our lives (Colby, in press). For all of these reasons, it is critically
important to integrate into any educational program a concern for ethical and socially responsible
occupational practices and to embed the students' understanding of their occupation in a larger
social and intellectual context that gives it deeper meaning (Boyte & Kari, 1996).
Lee Shulman (1997) has written persuasively about the potential for making liberal arts
education more like professional education in order to enhance, rather than undermine, the
underlying goals and values of liberal education: "The problem with the liberal arts is not that
they are endangered by the corruption of professionalism. Indeed, their problem is that they are
not professional enough. If we are to preserve and sustain liberal education, we must make it
more professional; we must learn to profess the liberal arts" (p.151).
Shulman (1997) points out that both in education and in professional work, moving from
theory to practice is necessary for theoretical or intellectual, understanding to become
"meaningful, memorable, and internalizable." Deep understanding is most likely to develop
when academic learning is seen as having as its end a kind of practice, such as providing service
to the community in a way that is both technically competent and morally desirable. Therefore,
like professional education, the most effective liberal education is active, reflective,
collaborative, emotionally committed, and "supported, legitimated, and nurtured within a
community or culture that values such experiences and creates many opportunities for them to
occur" (Shulman, p. 166).
William Sullivan (1999) also recognizes this potential, but argues that, in practice, higher
education too often fails to develop occupational or professional expertise in a way that ensures
its contribution to the greater social good. In his view, higher education has lost an animating
sense of mission and has instead come to operate on a sort of "default program of instrumental
individualism," in which "expertise and skill appear as simply neutral tools to be appropriated by
successful competitors in the service of their particular ends" (Sullivan, p. 11). In Sullivan's
analysis, this default program of instrumental individualism is linked intellectually with the
persistence of a positivistic approach to science and social science in which fact and value are
cleanly separated, and moral judgments are treated as matters of taste and subjective judgment,
and thus beyond the scope of scholarship and scientific research.
Though seen as outdated by many philosophers of science, the positivist approach
remains entrenched in much of American higher education and, in addition to shaping the
research agenda, provides the rationale for teaching that is analytic and descriptive, but seldom
normative. This approach to teaching, in which faculty are reluctant to raise ethical or moral
issues, however relevant they may be to the subject matter, is a reflection of the fact that few
faculty members see student moral and civic development as goals for their teaching or for
higher education in general. In fact, many explicitly deny that these student outcomes are in any
way their responsibility, or argue that discussions of moral values are inappropriate in secular
educational institutions. For example, the American Political Science Association's (APSA)
1991 report (see Wahlke, 1991) on the major explicitly rejects civic education as a mission of the
discipline. This position confirms an earlier report (APSA Committee on Pre-Collegiate
Education, 1971) which recommends an analytic and critical approach to political education.
Others, like Donald Moon (1991), have also noted and criticized the dominant
instrumentalist approach to social science in higher education, which "conceives of the
application of knowledge in essentially instrumentalist terms" (Moon, p. 204), with particular
emphasis on manipulating causal factors to achieve particular outcomes. This vision of
knowledge conceives of people and social activities as "objects," that can be manipulated
through various means to achieve a given outcome, but generally omits discussion of the value or
desirability of different social outcomes. Rather than discussing which social goals we should
have, and how we are to select our goals, the current instrumentalist approach to social science
removes questions of values from consideration in the classroom, and thus from the potentially
most influential segment of higher education.
This positivist or instrumentalist approach is often accompanied by a morally relativistic
world view that assumes the necessary preeminence of self-interest and individual preference in
explanations of human behavior (Etzioni, 1988; Moon, 1991). Even when this message about
human nature is only implicit, it can have a powerful effect on students, who absorb it from
many sources. It reinforces a strong tendency of non-judgmentalism, in which many students
conflate morality and religion, consider both to be matters of personal preference, and deny the
possibility of shared moral ground (Eberly, 1998). Thomas Magnell (1998) describes a
classroom experiment in which students are asked to make moral judgments about extreme
issues such as the taking of innocent human life and the majority refuses to do so, due to a
misguided equation of moral judgment with intolerance. This kind of moral subjectivism leaves
many young people with nothing to balance the materialism and individualism of our larger
culture and a deep alienation from the ethical values and social commitments that can provide
greater meaning in our lives.
The lack of rigorous discussion of values, ethics, and social goals is also a problem in the
humanities. The humanities have traditionally been viewed as both the core of a liberal arts
education, and the arena in which moral and civic issues should be central. In the past, many
considered moral philosophy and literature to be prime tools to aid students in developing their
own values, prompting the creation of "Great Books" programs like that adopted by the
University of Chicago in the 1930's. The emphasis in these courses, in which students read the
Greek philosophers, the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, along with the great Enlightenment
philosophers, was on the power of reason in working through complex moral issues, on the need
for civic virtues in grappling with public issues, and on the importance of individual liberty.
Similarly, literature courses have long used texts that exemplify moral struggles-- one definition
of a great literary work is the degree to which it exposes human struggles with moral quandaries.
Understanding those quandaries and their possible resolutions can be gained in powerful ways
through studying works such as Crime and Punishment and Jude the Obscure.
Yet despite this strong tradition of moral engagement in the humanities, our sense today
is that most students are not exposed in their philosophy, literature, or other humanities classes to
the kinds of analysis of moral and civic questions that provide a central rationale for a liberal arts
education. We have heard innumerable anecdotes about teachers of moral philosophy who, in
discussing the moral theories of Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Kant, and others, point
out the shortcomings of these theories without aiding students in the process of developing
principles for moral reasoning that they may live with and act on. This approach, combined with
the fact that teachers often conceal their own views and commitments, is ultimately corrosive for
students seeking their own moral compass. Students may be led to believe that all systems of
moral justification are fundamentally flawed and that, therefore, moral positions can be no more
than matters of personal preference. This can be as dangerous as dogmatic moral approaches that
inculcate moral and civic values without tolerating legitimate questioning or recognizing
conflicts among those values. Though much of our evidence remains anecdotal at this point, it
appears that in the humanities, as in the sciences and social sciences, the dominant mode of
teaching is to examine and analyze without helping students develop the means to anchor their
own experiences, past and future, in moral lessons from complex texts.
We recognize the difficulties and potential pitfalls educators face when discussing moral
and civic values in a society as strongly pluralist as our own, in which tolerance and respect for
difference are held as fundamental values in themselves. Yet we also believe that democratic
pluralism is not to be equated with moral skepticism or relativism, but rather with on-going and
public moral discourse in which citizens are encouraged to express, revise, and refine their own
ethical commitments. Relativism undermines democracy if all values are seen as merely
expressions of personal preference, with no interest in engaging in a thoughtful dialogue about
the reasons for holding a particular view, or its ability to withstand thoughtful criticisms.
This belief in the need for on-going discussions of values is illustrated by Jaroslav
Pelikan's address for the 1986 Woodrow Wilson Center Conference, titled "King Lear or Uncle
Tom's Cabin?," in which he considered alternative methods for teaching values. Pelikan
discussed Tolstoy's argument in What is Art?, in which Tolstoy argued that art's highest purpose
is to inculcate moral values. While Tolstoy lauded Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's
Cabin for achieving this goal, he criticized Shakespeare's King Lear for its failure on this count.
While sharing Tolstoy's vision of purpose of art, Pelikan argued that King Lear and Uncle Tom's
Cabin equally promote moral values, but do so through different artistic methods. Pelikan
argued that just as these two works exemplified different approaches to moral problems,
multiple paths should be taken to enable students to gain sound moral purchase on complex
We concur strongly with Pelikan's view: those of us who teach materials that particularly
lend themselves to raising moral issues have an obligation to do so in ways that help students
wrestle with their own moral dilemmas. It is not enough simply to show that any moral
framework built by reason can be criticized by reason, but rather we must also take on the much
more difficult task of helping students to think through for themselves which moral perspective
is best able to answer their intellectual, personal, and social needs. Moral inculcation is not what
we have in mind-- that is the province of the pulpit. The moral and civic learning that we urge is
totally integrated with substantive knowledge and intellectual reasoning, and works to allow
students to develop their own frameworks of judgment.
Like Socrates and Thoreau, we expect our students to avoid the unexamined life, and to
do so requires not only intellectual, but moral and civic virtues. We need as teachers to provide
multiple means for them to consider values in the context of their own actions or inactions. And
the social sciences and the natural sciences each have important contributions to make to this
educational process, though they may seem less obvious than those of the humanities. Donald
Moon (1991) has argued that contemporary liberal education must pay attention "to the ways in
which knowledge might be used in practical life" (p. 204), and that we must be more thoughtful
about the relationship between technical or substantive knowledge gained through higher
education- expert knowledge- and moral values and democratic practices. This speaks to a
central concern of our project: the need for higher education to connect the intellectual or
academic content of learning to the development of moral and civic goals.
Colleges and universities cannot avoid shaping their students' moral and civic values.
Moral and political assumptions are embedded in virtually every field, and even the failure to
attend to these assumptions conveys a powerful message. Likewise, the processes by which the
classroom and the institution operate are also value laden. These include the bases on which
grades are assigned; behavioral norms for classroom discussions; systems for handling academic
misconduct; the many issues that arise in connection with sports, Greek life, alcohol and drug
use; and the institution's relationship with its community. A recognition of the impact on
students of these dimensions of university life reinforces the argument that institutions of higher
education ought to confront directly their role as moral and civic educators.
The primary purpose of the first American colleges and universities was the development
of students' character, no less than their intellect. Character was defined in terms of moral and
civic virtues. The founding charters are clear. The following excerpt from the founding
documents of Stanford University, for example, is typical: The objectives of the University are
"to qualify students for personal success and direct usefulness in life and to promote the public
welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization...." These same goals
are still found in the mission statements of most higher-education institutions across the country,
which almost universally give at least formal recognition to the institutions' responsibility for
fostering the moral and civic maturity of their students. But few campuses have a coherent
institutional strategy to implement those statements. We recognize that the development of
student character as a primary institutional purpose may have been more an aspiration than a
reality at many colleges and universities, even in earlier times.
We also realize that higher education is very different today than when most of those
founding documents were written. The student bodies served are far more diverse than at any
time in our history, in terms of age, race, gender, and socioeconomic status. This diversity can
be a powerful agent of moral and civic learning, but it can also make the development of a
cohesive campus community, which is the most likely environment for that learning, more
difficult. The dominant template of pre-World War II higher education was private institutions,
educating full-time students from affluent families in residential settings. This is now a small
minority of American undergraduate education. Currently, more than three out of four
undergraduates attend a public institution, and almost that same share are commuter students
(U.S. Bureau of Census, 1998). A near-majority of undergraduates today do not come to college
or university directly from high school. They are older than their predecessors, they work part
time and are part-time undergraduates, many are married, and many are parents. Many do not
view themselves as members of "a community of learners," but rather as consumers who seek to
get what they want as rapidly, as easily, and as cheaply as possible. This may mean attending
two or three different institutions in the course of an undergraduate career, over a six or eight
year period. At the same time, nearly 40% of undergraduate credit hours today are taught by
adjunct faculty, and they often find it difficult to develop relationships with their students or to
influence them outside the classroom (U.S. Bureau of Census). Further, many full-time faculty
members view themselves more as independent contractors than members of an academic
community. Their loyalties are often stronger to their disciplines than to their campuses. These
are just a few of the forces pressing on institutions of higher education, from within and without,
that make attention to the development of students' moral and civic responsibility more difficult
than ever before.
Partly in spite of these forces and tensions, and partly because of them, we believe that
higher education has the potential to be a powerful influence in reinvigorating the democratic
spirit in America. Virtually all political and professional leaders are products of higher education,
and the general public is attending college in ever higher numbers. This extensive reach places
colleges and universities in a strong position to help reshape the culture. American higher
education has a long and distinguished tradition of serving democracy, upholding the ideals of
public service and intellectual integrity, and stimulating students' reexamination of questions of
value and meaning. Research over many decades has shown that, in fact, the undergraduate
experience does have a significant socializing effect on political beliefs and other values, and that
outcomes such as maturity of moral judgment, racial and religious tolerance, and civic and
political participation are positively associated with educational attainment (Pascarella &
Not only can higher education have a significant impact on students' moral and civic
development, but taking these outcomes seriously has the potential to strengthen and enrich other
educational goals. We are convinced that when thoughtfully pursued academic, moral, and civic
goals will be mutually enhancing. Moral, civic, and political development involve, among other
things, the achievement of more sophisticated and conceptually advanced understandings of
complex social and ethical ideas, and thus are integral to intellectual growth. When we think
about what we hope students will achieve through higher education, we realize it is not a
database of facts, but the competence to act in the world, the judgment to do so wisely. A full
account of competence, including occupational competence, must include consideration of
judgment, the appreciation of ends as well as means, and the broad implications and
consequences of one's actions and choices. Education is not complete until students not only
have acquired knowledge, but can act on that knowledge in the world, so the scope of learning
outcomes must include these values-based aspects of competence, broadly defined. Furthermore,
the liberal academic enterprise depends on some core moral values for its very raison d'etre. In
fact, the academic enterprise would be fatally compromised if intellectual integrity and respect
for truth ceased to guide scholarship, teaching, and learning.
Our inquiries over the past year have shown us that some American colleges and
universities do take very seriously their mission statements' references to the moral and civic
education of their students. For a few of these institutions, this commitment shapes many or most
aspects of the educational experience and constitutes an intentional and holistic approach to
moral and civic as well as academic education. For other institutions, strong programs designed
with moral and civic development in mind coexist with an overall campus environment that does
not have a comprehensive emphasis on these goals.
The colleges and universities that explicitly address the moral and civic development of
their students are extraordinarily diverse. They include every category of higher-education
institution-- community colleges, four-year colleges, comprehensive universities; and
universities with many graduate and professional programs. Some are residential, others are
non-residential; some are public, others are private; some are large, others are small; some are
religiously affiliated; some are military academies; some are single-sex; and some are primarily
for members of a minority group. These and others are represented among those that treat their
students' character and citizenship as central to their mission. We have found that while these
diverse institutions all take seriously the goals of moral and civic responsibility, they understand
those goals differently and concern themselves with different aspects of these broad domains.
Before describing particular educational endeavors, it will be useful to outline our
working conceptions of moral and civic responsibility and point to general pedagogical tools and
strategies that may contribute to their enhancement. We are concerned with the development of
the person, as an accountable individual and engaged participant in society. Responsibility
includes viewing oneself as a member of a shared social structure and a fair target of reactive
attitudes, such as praise and blame. Virtues such as honesty, trustworthiness, fairness, and
respect contribute to the development of personal integrity, fostering fair dealing and concern for
how one's actions impact others. These are the kinds of virtues that are often the focus of
university honor codes, which deal particularly with an individual student's academic integrity
and respect for the rights of others.
Social conscience, compassion, and commitment to the welfare of those outside one's
immediate sphere are important matters of moral development that go beyond the level of
personal integrity addressed by honor codes. Some institutions of higher education seek to
enhance a sense of social concern among their students through coursework that focuses on
important social or moral issues, while others use programs of community service or pedagogies
of active engagement, such as service learning, and still others use a combination of approaches.
Partially overlapping with these two dimensions of personal integrity and social
conscience is a civic component: coming to understand how a community operates, the problems
it faces, and the richness of its diversity, as well as fostering a willingness to commit time and
energy to enhance community life and to work collectively to resolve community concerns.
Colleges and universities try to promote civic responsibility through both curricular and co-curricular programs, including service learning programs and problem-based learning courses.
Finally, constructive political engagement, defined in terms of democratic processes, is a
particular subset of civic responsibility that has been the focus of substantial concern in recent
years. While there is overlap between them, we believe that it is important to distinguish the
political domain from non-political civic participation, since psychologically they can be quite
independent of one another. For example, even as community service among young people has
increased in recent years, for example, political interest and participation have dramatically
decreased (Astin et al., 1997). While some institutions of higher education are seeking ways to
stimulate political engagement as well as other kinds of civic participation and leadership, thus
far we have found that this is the aspect of civic responsibility that is least attended to in higher
education, even among schools with strong commitments to moral and civic learning.
Within each of these four main areas, there are a several skills and capacities that are
required for mature functioning. Within the domains of individual integrity, social responsibility,
civic responsibility, and constructive political participation, a fully developed individual must
have the ability to think clearly and in an appropriately complex and sophisticated way about
moral and civic issues; the moral commitment and sense of personal responsibility to act, which
can also include moral emotions such as empathy and concern for others; moral and civic values,
interests, and habits; and knowledge and experience in the relevant domains of life.
Moral judgment or reflection has been the most widely studied moral capacity. Different
aspects of the development of moral reflection have been described by a number of theorists,
most notably Lawrence Kohlberg (1988). These theorists have described the formal features of
individuals' thinking about moral issues and conflicts and the developmental changes in moral
thinking that occur over time, leading to more sophisticated approaches to moral issues as
development proceeds. While Kohlberg's theory of moral judgment has been criticized on a
number of grounds, there is broad consensus, even among those critics (Gilligan, 1977;
Noddings, 1984; Shweder, Mahapatra, & Miller, 1987), that moral judgment and an intellectual
understanding of moral issues are essential features of moral maturity and appropriate goals of
Mature moral judgment, though important, is not in itself a guarantee of morally
responsible conduct, however broadly judgment is defined. Moral conduct requires moral
commitment, a sense of personal responsibility to act on one's beliefs. A critical mediator
between moral understanding and moral commitment is the place of moral values in people's
identities. Several studies (e.g., Blasi, 1993) have shown that this integration of morality with
the self is the key to understanding moral conduct. In one such study (Colby & Damon, 1992),
we found that a close integration of self and morality formed the basis for the unwavering
commitment to the common good exhibited by "moral exemplars" who had dedicated
themselves for decades to fighting against poverty or for peace, civil rights, and other aspects of
social justice. While moral behavior depends in part on moral understanding and reflection, it
also depends on how and to what extent the individuals' moral concerns are important to their
sense of themselves as persons, and higher education can help to foster students' understanding
of themselves as morally committed and civically engaged citizens.
Likewise, Youniss and Yates (1997), Flanagan and Gallay (1995), Verba, Schlozman,
and Brady (1995) and others have written about the development of political or civic identity in a
way that parallels this conception of moral identity. For example, Youniss and Yates present
data showing that the long-term impact of youth service experience on later political and
community involvement can best be explained by the contribution these service experiences
make to the creation of an enduring sense of oneself as a politically engaged and socially
concerned person. In their view, civic identity--which entails the establishment of individual and
collective senses of social agency, responsibility for society, and political and moral awareness--links certain kinds of social participation during adolescence and young adulthood with civic
engagement by these same people later in adulthood. It is for this reason that we have been
particularly interested in examining the ways in which service learning and community based
learning can be used by higher education to promote students' civic engagement.
Yet another reason we cannot rely wholly on sophisticated moral thinking as sufficient
for moral and civic maturity is that not all moral or socially responsible conduct is preceded by
deliberation or conscious reflection. Most moral and ethical action, in fact, is habitual. Whereas
moral reflection is closely tied to intellectual competence, moral habits are embedded in
emotional and behavioral systems that are bolstered by the cultural context and years of practice.
(Citation??) The content of one's values and interests, and the nature of one's routine practices
derive from socialization within the family, the community, the peer group, and the schools, the
cultures of these institutions, and the ways those cultures are transmitted. This too, suggests an
important role for higher education, pointing to the need for schools to create cultural contexts
that support a concern for others and for the common good. Few would dispute that universities
ought to represent and embody not only the values of intellectual integrity and concern for truth,
but also tolerance and respect for others, interest in civic and political issues, concern for equity
and other aspects of social justice, and civil discourse as a means for resolving differences.
While some colleges and universities make these moral and civic goals a very high institutional
priority, approaching them in a very intentional and broad-based way, others have approaches
that are less comprehensive, more mixed, and can sometimes give conflicting messages to
students about these issues.
In addition to a mature understanding of moral issues and personal moral commitment to
act on those beliefs, people who are truly effective in their moral and civic engagement also need
substantive expertise in the complex issues with which they are grappling. An emotionally-driven concern for the environment or international human rights, for example, is unlikely to lead
to effective action unless the actor is knowledgeable as well as concerned. While much of
students' content knowledge clearly comes from books and lectures, it also comes from class
discussions and extra- or co-curricular experiences outside the classroom. For example,
experience living and working with people from diverse backgrounds can yield a kind of
expertise and knowledge that is particularly useful for effective moral and civic engagement, and
many programs at the college level include efforts to provide this kind of experience.
There is a full body of developmental theory and research about the conditions under
which moral capacities develop (e.g., Turiel, 1997). These studies show that intellectual
engagement and challenge around moral issues and dilemmas leads to the development of more
sophisticated moral judgment. Participating in political or community service activities often
entails such moral challenges, and can also expand the range of people for whom one feels
empathy and responsibility and foster the capacity to understand others' perspectives. This kind
of active learning experience can also lead to a change in the way students see themselves, with
moral values becoming a more central part of their self-definitions. This, in turn, can generate a
greater willingness to take action on moral and political issues. Empirical studies of service
learning and other service activities show that in order for the experience to have this kind of
developmental impact, there must be a "reflection" component in which participants think about
and discuss the meaning of their service experiences, connecting it with broader social issues and
Another powerful influence on one's moral development is identification with people one
admires, which can influence one's ideal self, and efforts to bring one's actual self more in line
with one's ideal lead to changes in identity and character over time. Finally, participation in a
moral community, with strong norms of contributing to the good of the whole, and coherence
among the messages about moral issues conveyed by the various members of the community,
help develop a sense of personal responsibility and a tendency to act in accordance with one's
moral beliefs. Working together, these various processes underlie all of the educational
programs we have seen that seek to nurture moral and civic development.
There has been a groundswell of interest in returning higher education to its broader
public mission, which includes preparation of students for responsible citizenship. Many
colleges and universities have made very serious commitments to this kind of work. Most of
those campuses, however, have focused their efforts on particular programs or activities that do
not affect most undergraduates, and the institutions usually do not centrally coordinate those
efforts. Examples of these programs include academic centers and institutes, freshman seminars,
and senior capstone courses. While major research universities are least likely to embrace a
comprehensive approach to these student outcomes, many of them do have significant programs,
designed to foster moral and civic development, that reach at least a part of their student bodies.
In contrast, a relatively few colleges and universities have made broad institutional
commitments to the development of all students' moral and civic development. We have sought
to document the work of some of these campuses with comprehensive and intentional approaches
to moral and civic learning.(2) All of the campuses we have visited have shared several important
institutional features. First, these schools' public statements of institutional purpose stress the
importance of personal integrity, social responsibility, and civic and political engagement and
leadership. Second, the upper levels of the administration in both academic and student affairs
endorse the importance of these educational goals and allocate resources to programs designed to
promote them. Third, multiple, overlapping approaches are used in each setting, and there are
mechanisms in place to facilitate communication among the different programs in order to
strengthen the coherence of the student experience.
Although the campuses we chose for site visits are a diverse group and represent a range
of unique adaptations to a common task, they share a number of assumptions, programmatic
elements, and challenges. For example, they share some assumptions about what kinds of
educational approaches are likely to make a difference, assumptions which are consistent with
recent developmental theory and research. Their programs target many of the moral and civic
capacities we outlined earlier in this paper. In particular, they address the cognitive or
intellectual dimension of moral and civic development, and seek to connect general capacities for
sophisticated and analytical judgment with substantive issues of real moral and social
significance. Finally, they attempt to create a shared culture of concern for moral issues; they
offer opportunities for engagement and action; and they provide a variety of means for shaping
the positive development of students' moral and civic identities.
At all of these campuses, we saw widespread incorporation of moral and civic issues into
academic teaching and learning. For most campuses, though not all, this integration was
deliberately planned as a part of the curriculum and often included both interdisciplinary courses
and courses within a large cross-section of disciplines. The consideration of moral, civic, or
political issues in course work was often tied with efforts to foster critical thinking and effective
communication, since these are widely recognized as important features of civil discourse. As
one faculty member said, "Students in my class are encouraged to express their opinions on
political issues, whatever those opinions are, just as long as they back up their claims with
arguments and are respectful of others' points of view."
Most of the campuses we visited also placed strong emphasis on the processes of teaching
and learning, and many of them had teaching and learning centers which provided help with
curriculum development and course assessment, sponsored such programs as interdisciplinary
faculty reading groups, and seminars on technology in the classroom. In addition to the
emphasis on teaching and learning, and often in conjunction with it, service learning is used on
all the campuses we visited and prevalent on most of them. The idea behind service learning, also
called community-based learning, is that academic study can be linked to community service
through structured reflection so that each enriches the other. Service learning courses are now
offered at virtually every college and university in the country, and cover almost every academic
discipline in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and professions. Some of the schools we
visited require all students to take at least one service learning experience. Many more
encourage, but do not require, such an experience.
Many faculty teaching these courses expressed the belief that their students' learning of
the course material was significantly enhanced by tying it to community service. As reported by
Eyler and Giles (1999) in Where is the Learning in Service Learning?, service learning is an
important means of enhancing critical thinking skills. This was confirmed by the students with
whom we spoke, many of whom told us how much their service learning experience had
enriched their learning of the course content as well as changing their perspectives on moral
issues or on groups of people they had encountered for the first time during these courses. As
Eyler and Giles conclude, "one of the things that jumped out at us was that almost irrespective of
the type, intensity, or quality of the service or service-learning experience, students report that
involvement in community service has a powerful impact on how they see themselves and
others" (p. 24).
Other programs of volunteer community service, such as alternative spring break, in
which students perform service work either in their home community or in a community to
which they travel, were also ubiquitous. These programs varied, however, in the extent to which
they included opportunities for reflection and integration with course work and other intellectual
Student leadership programs were important on all of the campuses, providing
opportunities for sustained collaborations with faculty and participation in student government,
campus judicial systems, and student involvement in campus and community issues. The
students who participate in these programs often mentioned their opportunities for leadership as
among the most powerful of their college experiences, leading to a strong sense of their own
capacities to effect change and a wide range of civic skills, including negotiation, consensus
building, public speaking, fiscal management, and the like. For example, on most campuses,
student leaders provided critical logistical support and teaching assistance to faculty who were
teaching service-learning courses by establishing and maintaining relationships with community
organizations. Students also gain leadership skills at many of these schools through peer
mentoring programs, in which students who are more advanced in their academic careers provide
guidance and support to their peers. These mentoring programs provide a powerful experience
for students on both sides of the mentoring relationship.
In addition to peer mentoring, on every campus, we saw a conscious effort to provide
other types of mentoring relationships and positive role models for students. Often faculty
whose research integrated important social issues served this function in informal ways, inspiring
students through their own commitment to socially responsible work and often involving their
students in that work. Students who have taken leadership roles also provide admired models.
On many campuses, there are special programs to bring speakers to campus with compelling
stories of moral courage, integrity, or commitments to social justice. For example, a recent
conference at the U.S. Air Force Academy included two Viet Nam veterans who had been
present at the My Lai massacre and were among the few to disobey orders to shoot civilians,
orders which were later determined to be unlawful. At the College of St. Catherine, the Core
Convocations program brings to campus a series of speakers and events that focus on social
We also found that on every campus we visited, issues of diversity and multiculturalism
were closely linked to concerns for student moral and civic development. While all of these
schools faced challenges in this area, either with attracting a diverse student body or faculty, or
with promoting full integration of the student body, they all expressed strong commitments to the
ideal of diversity, and recognized explicit linkages between living in a diverse society and the
strength of our civic and democratic ideals. Developing increased understanding of cultural
traditions other than one's own and promoting respectful engagement across differences were
central goals for both academic programs and student affairs. Often these goals were
incorporated into the core curriculum, and they were almost always central to community service
and service learning experiences. In many cases, efforts to foster mutual respect across racial,
ethnic, religious, and other differences were joined with efforts to develop a global perspective
on social issues. The conviction that students must be educated for participation in a pluralist
and multicultural society and a world that extends beyond the boundaries of the United States
was present on every campus.
Another challenge we saw at all of these campuses was the problem of developing,
funding, staffing, and maintaining such ambitious programs. Mounting programs of this sort is
institutionally difficult, given the many other challenges colleges and universities are facing.
Limited resources make it hard for most places to support the team-teaching that interdisciplinary
courses require, and faculty often see an elaborated core curriculum as draining resources from
the disciplinary departments. Generally, this kind of work is labor-intensive, and faculty time is
a scarce resource on all campuses.
While teaching for moral and civic as well as intellectual development can be extremely
demanding, the impact of these efforts on faculty morale seems to be very positive. On several
campuses, faculty who are taking on this challenge said that it has led them to be more reflective
about their teaching and to talk with their colleagues more about teaching. They also said that
this work, which is often collaborative across departments, helps to create a stronger sense of
intellectual community and adds new challenge and meaning to their professional lives. Faculty
report that they are also rewarded by their students' greater engagement and deeper
understanding of the subject matter. Many faculty, however, also expressed some concerns
about whether their participation in service learning courses and other time-intensive and non-traditional programs would negatively affect their ability to win promotions and tenure from
departments and administrations that continue to measure academic worth largely, if not entirely
by scholarly publication.
Many campuses have centers that assist faculty who are attempting some of these new
approaches to teaching, such as service learning and problem-based learning, and coordinate the
range of other activities designed to promote student moral and civic development. These
centers differ greatly from one campus to the next but in most cases provide a focal point of
activity and a means of communication across disparate programs. They include the Center for
Character Development at the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Center for Academic Excellence at
Portland State University, the Service Learning Institute at California State University at
Monterey Bay, and the Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame.
At each of the campuses we visited, as in higher education as a whole, assessment of
student outcomes is the least developed component of the overall effort to foster student moral
and civic development. Adequate assessment instruments do not exist for most of the desired
outcomes, and costly experimental and longitudinal designs would be required in order to control
for program selection bias and to evaluate whether programs have any long-term impact.
Research using self report questionnaires, interviews, and focus groups has been able to
document the positive effect of service learning on attitudes, civic behaviors, and academic
performance, but very little research has been done on the effectiveness of the other kinds of
programs we observed.
If we are to go beyond participation rates and student self-assessments, we will need to
develop observation procedures that document the processes of influence and instruments that
capture more fully the important but less tangible psychological constructs such as moral identity
and commitment, and performance variables such as critical thinking, negotiation, and effective
Among the campuses we visited, the one that has done the most work on assessment is
Portland State University (PSU), which has been developing methods for the assessment of
community-based teaching and learning. Their assessment project attempts to document the
impact of teaching that includes partnerships with community organizations on students, faculty,
partner organizations, and the university. Instruments include interviews, focus groups, surveys,
observations, student journals, contact logs, and faculty syllabi and curricula vitae. At this point,
most of the indicators of student development are self-reports, but work to develop more direct
indicators of outcomes is under way.
Most campuses lack the resources to do any assessments of their moral and civic
education programs beyond student evaluations of teaching in particular courses. In the absence
of such evaluations, we can get some baseline sense of the programs' potential effectiveness by
talking with students and faculty and gathering anecdotal evidence. It is fairly easy to
distinguish between programs and courses that students see as poor quality and do not take
seriously and those they describe as deeply engaging and, in their view, transformative. We have
found that both students and faculty on the campuses that we have visited are quite willing to
point out programs that do not seem to be working well, as well as to recognize those that do.
Although the work being done on these campuses is impressive in its scope, quality, and
impact on students, the programs are all very much "works in progress." Developing courses
and other programs that are both intellectually rigorous and personally transformative is
extremely difficult, and the programs we saw both within and between campuses varied in the
extent to which they were able to achieve their goals. Many of the offerings we observed will be
revised and improved as experience accumulates and better assessment tools are developed .
Beyond these general conclusions, our campus visits revealed the distinctive approaches
of the particular institutions we observed. These unique approaches reflect each institution's
mission, goals, history, and student body. The particularities are of interest because each is a
seed-bed of new ideas that can be adapted for use in different contexts. We will highlight just a
few features of five of the colleges and universities we visited. Each uses a richly multi-faceted
approach that we cannot attempt to capture fully in this brief account.
California State University at Monterey Bay
California State University at Monterey Bay (CSUMB) is a new university, established
only five years ago, in 1994. CSUMB has an unusually high degree of institutional intentionality
in regard to the moral and civic development of its students, because these goals have been
central elements of the vision that guided the establishment of the university, animating all
aspects of the institution since then, including hiring of administrators and faculty. This image of
what the university stands for is captured in its Vision Statement, which states a commitment to
provide students with "the critical thinking abilities to be productive citizens, and the social
responsibility and skills to be community builders," and Core Values, which include cultural
pluralism, globalism, ethical reflection and practice, and service to community. CSUMB's
Vision Statement is posted in virtually every office on campus, and faculty discussions of
curricular and other matters frequently refer to it as the central and guiding text: "Is this approach
consistent with the Vision Statement?" "Does that requirement further a goal of the Vision
Statement?" And so forth. For students no less than faculty and staff, the Vision Statement is a
central organizer of experience, and it acts as a touchstone for the whole campus community. In
fact, in an annual ceremony symbolizing the power of these unifying ideas, a giant copy of the
Vision Statement is used as a backdrop for the stage. As new faculty and staff members are
introduced to the campus community, they actually sign that copy as a public commitment to the
shared campus goals.
The Vision Statement serves not only to illuminate and integrate aspirations, but also to
recruit faculty. For some students and most faculty, the unusual nature of the university's moral
aspirations was an important factor in attracting them to the institution. As a result, the faculty's
passion for and commitment to the shared vision is exceptionally high. Faculty are self-conscious about their role as models for students, and exceptionally strong personal relationships
between students and faculty are common and seen as important by both.
Partly as a result of the goals expressed in the Vision Statement, the faculty, staff, and
students at CSUMB form an unusually cohesive community, with widely shared values that
highlight tolerance and respect across differences, mutual concern and active participation in the
campus community, and responsibility to contribute beyond the university. This culture of
broadly shared values reinforces the aims of students' academic and service experiences and
helps to shape their behavior and moral understanding.
An incident that occurred shortly before our visit illustrates the nature of community
support for these shared values. A disaffected student had made a racist comment in an email
that became public and, in response, a group of students organized an anti-hate rally, with eight
speakers, each from a different ethnic group, all talking about the importance of being respectful,
compassionate, and committed to social justice. Both faculty and students were very proud of
this collective response, particularly that it was student initiated and led, and the story was told
several times during our visit.
The risk that a strong consensus on values and moral norms might suppress dissenting
opinions is mitigated by the central role played at CSUMB by the concept of "ethical
communication" (also called "invitational communication"). Due primarily to the influential
work of Josina Makau, a faculty member and dean who played a leadership role in developing
CSUMB's approach to moral and civic education, the concept of ethical communication is
important as both a goal of and a mechanism for moral development. Ethical communication
refers to exchanges characterized by cooperative, responsive attempts to understand each others'
points of view, "open-heartedness," and non-manipulative intent rather than efforts to win the
argument or gain control over others, subjugating alternative points of view. Ethical
communication entails a degree of open-mindedness that will facilitate students' ability to learn
from the experiences they encounter while at CSUMB and beyond.
During our visit we found that explicit efforts were made to practice this form of ethical
communication in classroom discussions, administrative meetings, and public discourse on
campus. The other educational goals and methods at CSUMB assume that this capacity to
communicate not only effectively, but compassionately and respectfully even during
disagreements is an important quality of an ethically mature person. Faculty and staff are self-conscious about their responsibility as role models of ethical communication and mutually
respectful treatment both with each other and with students. The perception among faculty is
that people "really listen to each other" to an unusual degree in faculty meetings, Deans' Council
meetings, and even budget meetings.
CSUMB's vision statement and core values reflect a conception of development in which
the intellectual, ethical, civic, and political domains are all of central importance. Although each
has distinct value, educationally they are treated as thoroughly interconnected. This integration
is supported by the unusual structure of the academic programs and departments, all of which are
interdisciplinary. Rather than having departments of biology, physics, and chemistry, for
example, the university has a Center for Science, Technology, and Information Resources, within
which students major in programs such as Earth Systems Science and Policy or Mathematical
Sciences and Applications. Project and problem-based learning are widely used, with students
drawing on knowledge and skills from science, mathematics, public policy, and ethics to address
complex, real world problems. Courses often include a service component as well.
One setting for work that integrates science, public policy, and service to the community
is the Watershed Institute, which is a research, public outreach, and service component of the
Earth Systems Sciences Program at CSUMB. The Watershed Institute provides opportunities for
joint faculty-student research, offers applied projects for student learning about ecological
systems, water quality and management, biodiversity, public policy as it relates to land and water
use, and a host of other issues. With the assistance of CSUMB students, the Institute sponsors an
educational program for local schools on restoration of native plants, called "Return of the
Natives" as well as programs for community participation in land restoration and other projects.
This kind of problem-based learning is useful for helping students to understand the
complexity of ethical and public policy issues and potential conflicts among competing positive
values. One recent course project, for example, involved tensions between environmental
protection and economic justice, as well as complex scientific and policy questions. Students
were asked to investigate the impact of particular kinds and amounts of fertilizers and pesticides
on surrounding water quality and on agricultural production, using mathematical modeling to
project outcomes and examining biochemical processes, water management issues, and
differential economic impact on large and small farmers. In the end, students had to make policy
recommendations that involved hard choices about an issue that affects the local region of the
Monterey Peninsula, which is largely agricultural and for which the water supply is problematic.
Portland State University
Portland State University is a non-residential public university with more than 15,000
students, located at the heart of the largest urban center in Oregon. The student body is
extremely diverse, not only in terms of racial and ethnic background, but in terms of age and life
situation, with many part-time students who also work and have families. Service to the
community of Portland and partnerships between the university and the community are key
aspects of the university's identity, with the arch at the entrance to the campus bearing the words,
"Let Knowledge Serve the City." The university has always been a part of the city, and it sees
educating citizens of that community as its primary function. The PSU mission statement
highlights this role, referring to the university's responsibility for enhancing urban life,
conducting community service, and addressing issues important to the metropolitan region.
PSU's approach is adapted to the institution's particular history, nature, and situation just
as CSUMB's approach is colored by the unusual degree of cohesiveness in moral climate
possible at a new institution, founded with moral and civic education in mind. First, no doubt
because of its identity as a local, urban university, PSU's goals for student development strongly
emphasize civic responsibility, community participation, and appreciation of diversity. Moral
and civic responsibility are understood as concern for the consequences of one's choices and
actions on one's community, primarily in the context of political and social phenomena. As with
CSUMB, the development of personal morality is given less emphasis at PSU than are civic and
political engagement, in marked contrast with the Air Force Academy, which focuses on moral
character rather than community engagement (discussed below)..
At PSU the range of goals (or outcomes) for student development, including subject
matter knowledge, intellectual skills, civic skills and convictions, and moral judgment and
concerns, are very thoroughly integrated. Most faculty, administrators, professional staff, and
students with whom we spoke saw these goals as inseparable and mutually reinforcing. Critical
thinking, for example, is not only central to academic understanding but is also one of the most
important tools for moral and political education, allowing faculty to raise issues and generate
discussion without pressing students to adhere to particular positions. The close connection
between the intellectual with the moral and civic was also evident in faculty discussions of
community-based or service learning. When faculty explained why they use community-based
learning in their courses, they said that they knew of no better way to impart a deep
understanding of the academic subject matter and that this motivated their use of the approach as
much as their belief that such experiences benefit students' moral and civic development.
The primary approach to moral and civic education at Portland State is curricular, and the
most important mechanism for this integrated approach to learning is a new general education
program called University Studies, instituted in 1994. The goals of University Studies are to
generate learning in four areas: Communication (including writing, numeracy, graphics, and so
on); human experience (including enhancing awareness and appreciation of societal diversity in
the local, national, and global communities); inquiry and critical thinking; and ethical issues and
social responsibility (developing an appreciation for and understanding of the relationships
among personal, societal, and global well-being and ethical judgment, societal diversity, and
cultivating the expectation of social responsibility).
The program offers clusters of specially designed, interdisciplinary, team-taught courses,
many of which make use of community-based learning, as do many courses outside the
University Studies curriculum. Students choose a Freshman Inquiry course, a Sophomore
Inquiry course, several courses from sophomore and junior "clusters" of courses, and a Senior
Capstone course. Freshman Inquiry courses address such integrative topics as "Embracing
Einstein's Universe: Language, Culture, and Relativity;" and "Life's Labors: The Purpose,
Meaning, and Value of Work and Play." Examples of advanced course clusters for Sophomores
and Juniors include European Political Theory; Environmental Sustainability; and Ethics,
Politics, and Culture. In addition to the core curriculum, students also take courses offered by
disciplinary departments. The Senior Capstone course includes a major community service
Student mentors are an important component of the University Studies Program.
Upperclassmen serve as mentors in the Freshman Inquiry courses, and graduate students serve as
mentors in the upper division courses. The mentors lead sections and function somewhat like
teaching assistants, but their roles are broader than traditional teaching assistants, and include
taking responsibility for their students' personal adaptation and development and creation of a
strong sense of community among the students in the course. One goal of University Studies is
to build a culture among the students who go through the program, to add a sense of mutual
caring and responsibility that might otherwise be missing from a large public commuter campus.
Student mentors play a key role in creating this culture and sense of shared community.
The work of University Studies, community-university partnerships, teaching and
learning excellence, and assessment are facilitated by the Center for Academic Excellence
(CAE). The existence of this coordinating and facilitating unit is key to the success of PSU's
efforts to promote moral and civic development, as well as to the quality of teaching and learning
more broadly. CAE's purpose is to improve student outcomes, enhance teaching and faculty
scholarship, and contribute to strengthening the Portland metropolitan community. This kind of
support helps to encourage faculty to integrate their research with their teaching and service to
the community. Promotion and tenure guidelines at PSU further reinforce this ideal. Many
faculty do achieve this integration and maintain long-term active involvement with the Portland
community. For this reason, they provide powerful models of civic participation for their
To support faculty who teach the core University Studies curriculum and to encourage all
faculty to integrate moral and civic concerns into their teaching, the Center sponsors workshops
and ongoing faculty discussion groups. The titles of some of their recent offerings reveal some
of the challenges PSU faculty face. They include a monthly breakfast series "Celebration of
Practices of Civic Responsibility in Higher Education," at which faculty and community partners
meet to share ways they see the civic capacity of students being enhanced through involvement
in the community and ways to document that work. A workshop on "Volatile Classroom
Discourse" provides an opportunity for faculty members who are teaching community-based
learning courses to talk about their efforts to deal with students' stereotypes and prejudices about
people in the communities they serve, including discussions of how to handle derogatory
comments or negative interactions between students and members of the community. In a
workshop on "Unifying Locations of Research, Teaching, and Service" faculty share ways that
they can integrate their research and publishing with the "scholarships of teaching and service."
The United States Air Force Academy
The United States Air Force Academy focuses on the development of character and honor
as they are understood in the context of the academy's mission: the preparation of military
officers. This understanding informs all of the Academy's programs for cadet character
development. The central goal of these programs is to produce Air Force officers of integrity,
honor, and mutual respect who will be effective in working together across differences in
background and capable of making independent moral judgments while working within the
military authority structure.
Because of its emphasis on the preparation of military officers, the AFA's approach to
character development (even the choice to call the goal character development) is focused
particularly on the areas of personal morality and professional ethics and on the ability to work
closely with people from different racial, gender, and religious groups, rather than on civic and
political engagement and social justice. Of course, military service is itself understood as service
to the nation, and "service before self" is one of the core values around which all of the character
development activities are built.
The Center for Character Development at the AFA coordinates the various programs for
moral education at the Academy. Directed by a senior Air Force officer, the Center has four
divisions: the Honor Division; the Character Development Division; the Human Relations
Division, which provides programs around diversity issues, and; the Curriculum and Research
Division. The Center is quite well funded and very active, with a large staff and an endowed
visiting faculty position in moral education.
The Academy's assumptions about "what works" in fostering character is distinctive
among the colleges we visited in its focus on the critical importance of developing and practicing
virtuous habits. As one officer said, "Years after they leave here, the graduates find themselves
rolling their socks and organizing their drawers the same way they did here." The focus on habit
is discussed in explicit reference to the Aristotelian emphasis on virtue as the accumulated effect
of moral practice over time.
The emphasis on moral habit is most evident in the Cadet Honor Code: "We will not lie,
cheat, or steal, nor tolerate among us anyone who does." Along with the Air Force core values--
Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do-- the Honor Code forms the
centerpiece of the Academy's conception of character. Both the core values and the Honor Code
are posted in virtually every location on the campus. The Honor Code is strictly enforced and a
more salient part of the cadets' daily experience than is true of most college honor codes. The
AFA's approach draws from the belief that high expectations for honesty and other aspects of
moral behavior such as mutual respect, consistently enforced over the course of four years will
result in virtues -- persistent habits of character that become a part of the person.
Although there are serious limitations to this approach if it is divorced from larger moral
inquiry, programs that engender virtuous habits can be very effective components of a
multifaceted approach to moral education that also provides a means for developing moral
understanding and independent judgment. At the AFA these means are provided by discussion
of moral issues that arise in connection with courses and military practice, a program of lessons
and discussions about honor that extends across the four years, an annual conference on
character, community service and service learning experiences, and a major program around
cultural diversity, known as "human relations."
Of course, enforcement of standards for moral behavior is critical to their impact, and
enforcement implies sanctions for violation. At the AFA, cadets accused of violating the honor
code go through an extended process of investigation that includes a hearing before a board of
cadet "honor representatives." A conviction requires the judgment by two thirds of the members
that the evidence demonstrates guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The consequences of Honor
Code violations are severe -- "disenrollment" (expulsion) and loss of officer standing in the
A recent adaptation of the Honor Code policies introduces greater flexibility into the
system. In the "developmental approach" recently introduced, a first or second year cadet found
in violation of the code is not automatically disenrolled. In many instances, depending on
severity of the offense and other factors, the cadet will be put on probation instead. The
probationary activities constitute an intensive program of coaching that is designed to be a
positive developmental experience for the cadet as well as a punishment. The program includes
the establishment of an ongoing relationship with a mentor, regular journal writing, and
participation in leadership activities that relate to honor and the development of personal
integrity. Cadets who have experienced this program generally describe it as an extremely
positive experience and often see it as a turning point in their moral development.
Even though honor codes may not play as central a role in most civilian colleges as they
do at the Air Force Academy, they can serve as important mechanisms for moral education.
Research (McCabe & Trevino, 1996) indicates that cheating is significantly lower in institutions
that have and enforce honor codes and in those where faculty take academic integrity seriously
and talk about it with their students. The Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University
provides descriptions of some of the more innovative uses of honor codes and academic integrity
issues more generally for promoting the character of college students. The most interesting
approaches (e.g., Cole & Conklin, 1996) use discussions of academic integrity as opportunities to
talk with students about the nature of intellectual integrity and its place in scholarship and
scientific research. Discussions include consideration of what it means to be "a community of
inquiry" and the ways that members of such communities legitimately use and build on each
others' work. The goal is to help students understand that by participating in academic work they
are part of this scholarly enterprise. In a similar way, the AFA uses the Honor Code to foster in
the cadets a sense of honor that goes beyond the rather narrow proscriptions the code enumerates.
Another explicit strategy used to promote character development at the AFA involves the
recruitment of all members of the Academy community into a common effort to provide a clear
and consistent set of messages to the cadets. The Center for Character Development uses a
number of methods to encourage faculty, staff, and student leaders to share in the responsibility
for the cadets' character development. They include group meetings with segments of staff such
as dining hall workers, who are encouraged to speak up if they are treated disrespectfully, and
campus police, who are urged to be creative in finding ways to treat violations of base rules as
opportunities for learning as well as discipline. The Center for Character Development also
sponsors a day-long workshop on moral issues called the Academy Character Enrichment
Seminar (ACES), which is attended by all faculty, staff, and cadet leaders such as the Honor
Representatives. The seminar includes discussions of motivations to be moral, moral dilemmas
faced by the participants, and approaches to mentoring cadets.
Research on community characteristics that support the positive development of youth
(Furstenberg, 1993) demonstrates the effectiveness of cooperation among members of a
community in setting and upholding standards for the behavior of their young people. Damon
(1995; 1997) has called this kind of cooperation a "youth charter." A youth charter requires all
of the adults in a community who have roles in the lives of the young people to negotiate a
consensus around standards and expectations and to maintain close communication with each
other about individual students in order to help the young people achieve these standards.
Although they do not use this language, in essence, the AFA creates a youth charter on campus.
The University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame is a Catholic university in South Bend, Indiana, founded in 1842 by the
Congregation of Holy Cross. Although governance was legally transferred to a predominantly
lay board in 1967, the president is always chosen from the Holy Cross order, and the strong
Catholic character of the institution has been maintained. Of the 7800 undergraduates, 85% of
the undergraduates are Catholic, and many attended a parochial high school. Further, a majority
of the faculty are Catholic, though the percentage has been declining in recent years. All
freshmen must live in one of the 27 residences, and most students continue to live in the same
residence for all four years. Each residence is led by a Rector, usually a priest or nun, with
responsibility for the spiritual and moral life of the residents.
The University places particular stress on both the moral and spiritual development of its
students. In marked contrast to most institutions, many of the faculty members with whom we
talked felt free, even encouraged, to discuss moral and civic issues in their classrooms, even in
courses which are not traditionally seen as offering opportunities for these discussions, such as
engineering and business. While this was particularly true of older faculty, it was also true of
many of the younger faculty with whom we spoke. We were stuck by an atmosphere that seems
to expect faculty members to raise issues that relate directly to moral and civic concerns in their
classes, and by the frequency with which we heard from students that just this happened in their
classes. Many students stressed that moral and intellectual issues were integrated into their
The stress at Notre Dame on moral and civic development is evidenced in the Mission
Statement and the Academic Code of Honor. It appears in a range of programs under the ambit of
Student Life, particularly the Center for Social Concerns and programs involving the residences.
The Mission Statement emphasizes that the University "seeks to cultivate in its students not only
an appreciation for the great achievements of human beings but also a disciplined sensibility to
the poverty, injustice, and oppression that burden the lives of so many. The aim is to create a
sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning
becomes service to justice . . . ." The Academic Code of Honor provides that the University is a
"community of students, faculty, and administrators who come together to learn, work, and grow
in moral character. Central to this concept of community is a belief in the importance of
honorable behavior for oneself and for the community as a whole." The University Bulletin
underscores that Notre Dame gives special attention to Student Life because "values, character
and leadership are developed as often in the context of caring relationships as in selected
readings from various textbooks . . . ."
The development of the spiritual life of Notre Dame students is considered to be integral
to their full development as human beings generally and to their moral development particularly.
The residences are seen as the primary fora for the development of that spiritual life, as well as
for the development of a strong sense of community. Mass is said every Sunday night about
10:30 p.m., and although no student is required to come, many do, including some who are not
Catholic. Each residence has its own character and atmosphere, but the primary role of each,
beyond serving as housing, is to provide the basis for a cohesive community. Students are
members of the same residence for their entire stay at Notre Dame, and maintain their connection
to their residence hall even if they move off campus. Each residence has scores of teams, clubs,
and other organizations.
The residences are powerful centers of moral learning, and priests, nuns, and others
chosen for their spiritual and moral commitments act as both Rectors and student mentors,
though naturally not all Rectors are as strong role models as others. But we were struck by how
little linkage there was between the residences and academic study-two different worlds for most
students, or so we heard. The residences are learning communities, though not particularly
intellectual ones. Numerous efforts have been made to bridge the gap between the residences
and the classrooms, but so far they have not succeeded. As a result of our visit, a new effort is
being proposed for next year. In addition to the spiritual life fostered in the dorm, all students are
also required to take two courses in theology, which are courses on Catholic theology.
We saw some of the most compelling examples of moral and civic learning at Notre
Dame's Center for Social Concerns. The Center is a remarkable, perhaps unique, focus of moral
development on the campus. It started in the late 1970s, with much of the impetus coming from
students, and it combined a number of disparate campus programs that promoted experiential
learning and volunteer services. It has been in a building near the center of campus since 1983.
From the outset, it has been led by Father Don McNeil. The Center is at the heart of service and
social awareness for students particularly, but for faculty and staff as well. It is part of the
Institute for Church Life, an umbrella organization, and moral and civic development are a key
mission, along with spiritual development. McNeil views Catholic doctrine as requiring a deep
commitment to social justice through active engagement in moral and civic concerns, and this
view gives the Center a special character.
About 2000 students per year are involved in the Center's courses and other
activities-some more than others, of course, but on a campus of 7500 undergraduates, that is an
impressive number. Particularly impressive is the way in which the Center leadership is working
to integrate its efforts into the academic life of the University. In recent years, the numbers of
service learning courses sponsored through the Center has increased substantially. Currently,
about one-third of all students graduate having taken at least one service learning course, and
most are sponsored through the Center or in collaboration with it. A high percentage of Notre
Dame students is involved in service activities after graduation, and the work of the Center is a
The very strengths of the University are also limitations in the realms of moral and civic
learning, or at least its special challenges. Notre Dame is a strong community of students, as
much as or more than other universities we have seen, and its residences are particularly cohesive
communities. The University as a whole places a strong emphasis on moral development under
the mantle of its Catholic tradition, and that emphasis is both individualized and focused on a
small community in the residences. The moral development is linked to civic development as
well in terms of community service, service learning programs, retreats, and a wide range of co-curricular and Church related activities.
At the same time, the primary cohesive factor-a Catholic university with 85% of its
students being Catholic- also poses a limitation because so much of civic learning involves
learning to understand diverse cultures, backgrounds, races, religions, and ways of life. That
understanding cannot be gained solely in books and class discussions. Coming to know
individuals of different religions and races is a powerful educator, but it is one that Notre Dame
can offer only in limited ways. Even multi-cultural courses are a relative rarity. The University
stresses that "all are welcome," and makes substantial efforts to make that promise a reality. But
those among the 15% of non-Catholic undergraduate students with whom we talked said that
they often feel isolated. This is particularly true among some non-Catholic women, who feel that
the Catholic Church and the University is dominated by men, and for African-Americans.
The College of St. Catherine
The College of St. Catherine (CSC), informally knows as St. Kate's, comprises two
campuses, one located in St. Paul, Minnesota, the other in Minneapolis. The missions,
structures, and student bodies of the two are quite different, but both are committed to preparing
students for lives of personal and civic responsibility. The Minneapolis campus of CSC offers
two year associate of arts degrees as well as two year degrees in a number of health care and
human services fields. Although this campus is co-educational, the majority of students are
women. The St. Paul campus is a four year, primarily residential, college for women which
offers the baccalaureate in liberal arts as well as professional programs in business, health care,
and human services. It also offers several graduate programs for men and women.
Although neither campus has a predominantly Catholic student body (about 47% are
Catholic), the College is influenced by its Roman Catholic heritage, and religious or spiritual
values are very evident in CSC's approach to moral and civic education. There is a widespread
sense that, as one faculty member told us, "what makes a St. Kate's education different is the
connection and link to its underlying mission." Students, faculty, and administrators at both
campuses are particularly influenced by the traditions and values of their founders-- the Sisters of
Saint Joseph of Carondelet. The Sisters of this order are known for their strength, independence,
concern for the disadvantaged, and social activism, and these qualities set the tone for both
campuses of the College. Stories about Sister Antonia, the founder of the CSC, are told and
retold by both faculty and students, and play a special role in the college's orientation program
and in the core curriculum of the St. Paul's campus. The two favorite stories concern incidents
in which Sister Antonia defied authority to realize a more ambitious plan for the college than
others, particularly men, thought appropriate. (Placing a new science building in the path of a
new city road through the center of campus, thus stopping the road and building a much more
imposing chapel than was authorized, while the bishop was abroad.) These stories are told with
pride and a sense that the women of the College of St. Catherine today aspire to the same kind of
courage, independence, and grass roots leadership.
In the past, many Sisters taught at the college and infused their values of social justice
directly through their teachings and presence on the campus. However, as their numbers
diminish, much of their influence now comes from these stories and traditions and from various
formal and informal partnerships with the college. For example, the Sisters participate in the
"SWAP Task Force" (Students Who Are Parents) for single mothers, and they recently
introduced a "Prayer Partners" program, in which any student can ask to have a Sister as a prayer
partner (and many of the 100 students who requested a partner were not Catholic). The Sisters
are particularly interested in drawing more students into community action by cooperating with
other campus programs and student groups. For example, the Sisters work with Campus
Ministry and the Multicultural and International Programs (MIPS) Office to lead students in a
Denver Justice Outreach Spring Break Trip, where students work in a homeless shelter.
Though St. Kate's is unquestionably a Catholic school, Catholic orthodoxy is not
imposed on students, even on issues on which the Church has taken a position, such as abortion
and homosexuality. The balance the college seeks to achieve between honoring its origins and
ensuring spiritual and intellectual openness is expressed in its Roman Catholic Identity
Statement, which stresses critical inquiry about religious questions, the non-dogmatic and
ecumenical nature of the College's approach to spirituality, and the Church's long tradition of
commitment to the poor. It goes on, "Drawing on these traditions, we seek to promote, through
our student services, campus ministry, administration, faculty and staff, a common search for
wisdom and the integration of our daily lives and work with our spirituality. Without being
exclusive of other ecclesiastical and spiritual traditions, we will continue to ask ourselves how
this Catholic heritage enhances the people we serve and the well being of the planet."
From our discussions with various groups, it became clear that the commitments
expressed in the Roman Catholic Identity statement are taken seriously and are strongly reflected
in students' experiences. When we asked students whether they believed that the Catholic nature
of the school influenced the campus or the way in which courses were taught, we heard from
students that "there's no dogmatic Catholicism-- It's more of an emphasis on the whole person";
that "it's more about a kind of spirituality; there's definitely acceptance of different values," and
"there's no sense that Catholicism is superior- there's a real openness to other views." Though
the college has a theology requirement, these courses do not focus exclusively on Catholic
doctrines or traditions, but rather explore the beliefs and traditions of a number of faiths,
including Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism, teaching them all with equal respect.
When we discussed the issue of Catholicism with faculty and administrators, many
believed that part of the reason the campus has been able to maintain this delicate balance is
because the school was founded by sisters, rather than priests, and because the sisters of St.
Joseph are not a contemplative order, but one which is dedicated to social action. In addition,
when we spoke with the Sisters they expressed a similar approach to moral education, explaining
that "It's important for us to send a message that isn't only about Catholicism and social justice,
but is also about hospitality to people of different colors and faiths. We want to help people
know that Catholicism can be open and embracing."
As we saw at the University of Notre Dame, there have been some struggles over the
Catholic identity of the college, including pressure from some alums wanting stronger emphasis
on Catholicism, and disagreements between and among students, faculty, trustees, and
administrators about whether the college should be led by a Catholic. However, St. Kate's
strives for, and seems to have found a comfortable balance between respecting its Catholic
identity and maintaining an atmosphere that embraces diverse viewpoints.
We found that the same passion that the Sisters hold for social justice and community
activism can be seen in the curriculum, the campus culture, and the relation of the college
campuses to their communities. For example, the Minneapolis campus has a program called
Access and Success, which encourages low income women, including those on welfare, to train
in nursing, physical therapy, and other health care fields. These women are offered a wide range
of support, including help with child care and housing to make sure that they succeed in their
studies. One of the programs that Access and Success sponsors is "Mother to Mother," in which
single mothers in the College reach out to single mothers in local high schools, urging them to
consider continuing their education as a way out of poverty and dependence on public assistance.
The high school mothers often go on to become students at the College and senior partners in this
kind of exchange with another generation of high school students.
Also very much in evidence on both campuses is the idea of paid work as service and,
therefore, the integration of ethical considerations into the pre-professional programs. Courses in
ethics are an integral part of the students' training for work in health care and human service
fields. In many cases, these courses are taught in connection with clinical or practicum
experiences, and the students are discouraged from taking the ethics courses too early in their
training, since linking the course work with actual experience in the field is considered essential.
Some faculty have been particularly creative in developing new strategies, using drama, fiction,
simulations and a range of media to foster in their students compassion for their patients or
clients and a deeper comprehension of the complexity of the human situations they will face in
While there is a strong emphasis and value placed on diversity in curricular and co-curricular programs at St. Kate's, as with other schools diversity remains a challenge. It is a
peculiar challenge for the St. Paul campus because, while the school is founded on principles of
social justice and diversity, its student body is 92% white (though the college as a whole-
combining the two campuses- is 79% white). Since the students at the St. Paul campus have few
opportunities for encountering diverse people and views in their daily interactions, the college's
Multicultural and International Program strives to get students to think about the value of
diversity in creative ways, such as bringing different groups and speakers to campus through the
Core Convocations program, and through service opportunities in the Twin Cities and other
It is important to note, however, that the College of St. Catherine, particularly the
Minneapolis campus, is extremely diverse in other ways. Both campuses have a large number of
"non-traditional" students, including older students, returning students, single parents, and
working students. The Minneapolis campus has a significant number of low-income students,
first-generation college students, and international students. In addition, the Minneapolis campus
has a number of blind students (and now have 74 blind alums), as well as a few deaf students.
Attention to diversity is particularly strong at the Minneapolis campus, where a
sensitivity to racial, cultural, and socioeconomic differences characterizes the education in all of
the programs, woven into many courses on professional practice as well as being the central
focus of some liberal arts courses. Since it is assumed that students entering health care and
social service fields will practice in diverse communities, this capacity to work effectively with
people from very different backgrounds is considered a critical aspect of the graduates'
professional competence. Many students talked about experiences in which they had already
played advocacy roles for patients from the various immigrant groups that cluster in the region,
such as the Hmong, helping others in the health care system to understand better the cultural
differences that need to be taken into account if the system is to serve the immigrants effectively.
On the St. Paul campus, we also saw an unusual degree of coherence between curricular
and co-curricular programs, including programs in the residence halls. The freshman seminar for
the core curriculum, The Reflective Woman (TRW) is intended to help students begin
developing frameworks to think about the way their values and lives can be informed by a range
of moral, spiritual, and intellectual traditions. The senior course, Global Search for Justice, is a
multi-disciplinary seminar which addresses global issues of peace, meaningful work, and social
justice, with the intention of helping students to "develop the discipline and consciousness
needed to change oppressive systemic conditions and reshape their world."
In the residence halls, activities are planned that parallel and build on what the students
are doing in these core courses. For example, the Reflective Woman course provides a
framework for programming in freshman residence halls. The resident advisors, being more
advanced students, have all taken the course, and each section of the course moves through the
same sequence of activities, thus enabling the residence hall staff to design programs that
dovetail with what the students are currently doing in TRW. The Core Convocations, which
brings to campus a series of performances and events related to social justice are also designed to
draw upon and expand the themes of the Reflective Woman and Search for Global Justice
courses. This kind of strategic integration of curricular and residence hall experiences is rare,
even among colleges with holistic and intentional commitments to the moral and civic
development of their students.
At the beginning of this paper, we reviewed some of the barriers to realizing the potential
of higher education to influence students' moral and civic development. These barriers are
reinforced by cultural trends in the broader society and by pressures, constraints, and forces in
the system of higher education that go beyond any individual campus. At the same time,
however, there is a strong and growing movement in this country to reinvigorate higher
education's civic and democratic mission. Increasingly, many colleges and universities are
taking seriously their responsibilities to their local communities and developing community-university partnerships around schooling, discourse about public issues, programs for youth and
families, land use, and the like. Within individual campuses, many colleges and universities
have made serious commitments to programs of moral and civic education of their students, as
we have seen in our campus visits.
We are now beginning to see growth in efforts to coordinate and foster communication
about this work and to enact change on a wider scale. Campus Compact, an organization of
college and university presidents, has been particularly successful in this role. It was begun in
1985 by a small group of presidents who thought that while "the 'me' generation" was an unfair
label for their students, those students nevertheless needed active encouragement to engage in
community service. While the organization initially focused on service generally, by the
beginning of the 1990s the focus shifted to service learning as it became clear to the Campus
Compact leadership that important advantages are lost unless community service is linked to
academic study though structured reflection. Without that reflection, community service often
has little lasting impact on students, and community service that is unconnected to the curriculum
is often viewed by faculty members as simply one more extra-curricular activity, like sports, not
central to the educational mission of the institution. As a result, Campus Compact shifted its
attention to providing materials and other support for community service learning programs
throughout the country. More recently, Campus Compact has expanded its attention to the whole
array of concerns related to higher education and civic engagement. It sponsored an invitational
conference this summer at the Aspen Institute, with the hope of gaining endorsement for a bold
declaration of responsibility for enhancing civic engagement on the part of participating college
and university presidents, and an assessment tool to measure success. A number of other higher-education organizations are also active in this arena, including the American Association of
Higher Education, the American Council on Education, and the Association of American
Colleges and Universities.
In addition, regular conferences on college student values and moral development, such
as those sponsored by Florida State University and Duke University, provide opportunities for
people who are working on moral and civic education at the college level to meet and share
information with others about their experiences. Some of these meetings also provide
opportunities for cross-fertilization between people working at the college level and those
working in elementary and secondary schools, which have been pursuing moral and civic
education for a long time. This is of obvious importance, since students entering college will be
differentially receptive to activities such as service-learning depending on their previous school
experiences. In fact, community service has become very widespread in elementary and high
schools in the past several years, and this has important implications for programming at the
Efforts to respond to the kinds of critiques of higher education that we reviewed in the
first section of this paper are even beginning at research universities. For example,
representatives from major research universities met last year at Wingspread Conference Center
in Wisconsin. One result of that gathering was a "Wingspread Declaration for Renewing the
Civic Mission of American Research Universities." The Declaration urges research universities
to prepare their students for engaged citizenship "through multiple opportunities to do the work
of citizenship today through real projects of impact and relevance, learning the skills, developing
the habits and identities, and acquiring the knowledge to contribute to the general welfare." The
Declaration is accompanied by a set of planning documents to further its goals. A second session
will be held this July, and steps are underway to institutionalize the goals expressed in the
New approaches to institutional accreditation are also highlighting the moral and civic
development of undergraduate students. A trend toward greater emphasis on outcomes-based
accreditation criteria is reflected in the recent report by the National Project of the American
Academy for Liberal Education, "The Re-visioning of Accreditation in the Liberal Arts." This
report lists "civic virtue" as one of the five categories of student achievement that liberal
education should provide. "Civic virtue' is defined to include interest in and consideration of the
public good, a tangible concern with the moral implications of technical knowledge, and the
ability to think critically and empathically.
We are still in the first year of what we envisage as a three-year project, with some
follow-on efforts likely after that period. It is too early, therefore, to say anything definitive in
terms of recommendations. But we do have some preliminary insights based on our work to
1. A high degree of institutional intentionality in fostering the moral and civic responsibility is
the hallmark of those colleges and universities that lead in this arena. These campuses not only
have mission statements that include this goal, but the statements are well known and understood
by most students, faculty members, and staff. The administrative leadership speaks and acts in
ways that promote the goal, as does faculty leadership.
2. A wide range of programs can contribute to moral and civic learning-both curricular and
extra-curricular. Without limiting those programs, campuses should build conscious connections
between them with the goal of making the campus whole more than the sum of its parts. Those
connections should be documented, publicly discussed, and open to review and revision.
3. An effective program in this arena needs a clear conceptual framework, and too often program
developers fail to make explicit the theoretical assumptions and educational philosophies
underlying their approaches.
4. Active pedagogies that engage students in the practice of grappling with tough moral and civic
issues, as well as examining them in theory, are essential to the full development of informed,
committed, socially responsible, and politically engaged citizens.
5. A network of scholars is needed to take leadership in assessment and research concerning
undergraduate moral and civic education. Longitudinal studies on programs being developed are
important if we are to learn what kinds of educational approaches are most effective and have
long term impact. A coordinated effort in the area of instrument development would be
extremely beneficial since adoption of some common measures would allow for comparison
across programs. It is not necessary or even desirable for each campus to develop its own
measures. The development of assessment tools will be a very challenging task, however, and
we need to be very cautious about trying to capture complex and subtle developmental
phenomena with superficial instruments.
6. Additional mechanisms are needed through which campuses can learn from each others'
experiences, even across very different kinds of institutions. These mechanisms could include
visits to each others' campuses, regional and national conferences, as well as web-based
7. More inter-institutional efforts such as the Wingspread and Aspen Conferences, referred to
above, are needed. Ideally, in our view, the success of colleges and universities in promoting
moral and civic responsibility should part a part of the higher-education accreditation processes.
It has become a commonplace to bemoan a loss of moral and civic responsibility,
particularly among young people, and to urge increased attention to moral and civic education
among students at every level. If the issue is viewed solely as one of information transfer, the
role of higher education is inevitably a modest one. This is no less true if the issue is seen solely
as proselytizing students not to cheat or to pay attention to politics. Like John Dewey, we have
much more in mind. We believe that democracy and education, like moral, civic, and cognitive
learning, are inexorably intertwined. This is not simply because our citizenry must be educated
to deal honestly with each other and to choose responsibly our political leaders and hold them
accountable. Much more important, a democratic society is one in which citizens interact with
each other, learn from each other, grow with each other, and together make their communities
more than the sum of their parts. Dewey (1916) urged that a community of learners is the
primary mechanism through which this democratizing process can best occur. To be successful,
the community must be both interactive and collaborative, a place where the processes of
decision-making are at least as important as the decisions themselves. And it must be a diverse
community, reflecting the diversity of the larger communities into which students will move on
To translate this mandate into effective institutional programs, we must attend to many
questions. What are the essential elements of moral and civic character for an American in the
next century? What specific knowledge, skills, and values contribute to those elements,
recognizing that there may be a range of different ways to be a good citizen? What contribution
can higher education make in developing these qualities in sustained and effective ways? What
evidence is there about the types of civic educational efforts that are most effective in preparing
for responsible citizenship? What are the problems that confront colleges and universities that
attempt to engage in sustained civic education, and what are the best strategies to help overcome
These are the kinds of issues that we are addressing in our project for the Carnegie
Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. We seek not only to clarify approaches that work
well, but also to encourage the expansion of those approaches throughout American higher
education. Toward that goal, we seek advice and counsel from all who share our concerns and
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1. The potential growth of for-profit institutions of higher education may force traditional non-profit
colleges and universities to pay increasing attention to the ways in which they provide value by preparing their
students to be morally and civically responsible as well as academically strong.
2. At the time of this writing, we have visited or planned to visit the following campuses:
Alverno College, Bennett College, College of St. Catherine, California State University at
Monterey Bay; Dine College, Emory University, Messiah College, Notre Dame University,
Portland State University, Tusculum College, and the Air Force Academy. In addition, we will
visit one or more community colleges and Native American Tribal Colleges.