Fostering Personal and Social Responsibility

Fostering Personal and Social Responsibility - RICHARD H....

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6L IBERAL E DUCATION S UMMER/FALL 2005 FEATURED TOPIC T HE TWENTY - FIRST CENTURY had barely begun be- fore the spirit of promise left in the wake of the Cold War was dispelled by a renewed sense of peril. Hopes for a “new world order” were dashed quickly and violently on September 11, 2001, when it be- came clear that nothing less than our way of life is at stake. There is indeed a new world, but order is not its nature. More- over, where it exists at all, “order” still includes many of the same old op- pressions that rightly offend the moral sensibilities of humankind. The murderous events of the past several years in such places as Bosnia, Rwanda, Sudan, the Middle East, and the United States fully discredit moral relativism. Yet they risk also subverting the essential urge and need to understand and engage each other, especially the foreign and the alien-to-us. The power of the moment is noteworthy, not because the media tells us so over, and over, and over, but because of the powerful forces, emo- tions, and fundamental beliefs now in play. This is the moment to revalue the concepts of civilization and what it means to be fully human, to renew our commitment to tolerance and freedom, and to reawaken our awareness of worldwide interdependence and ecological contingency. Understandably, students come to campuses today in a state of bewil- derment about all of this—a mood that matches their transitional time of life and their innate curiosity, awakening, and questioning. Although campuses import much from the larger culture, they also have special problems of their own that contribute to the exigency of the moment. Campuses face the significant problems of cheating, alcohol and other drug abuse, violence, and a sharp rise in diagnosed depression and in self-destructive behaviors such as anorexia, bulimia, and suicide at- tempts. For institutions that seek to educate the “whole person,” the challenge of educating for personal and social responsibility has taken on new urgency. Educating for personal and social responsibility will take nothing less than a pervasive cultural shift within the academy RICHARD H. HERSH is a senior fellow at the Council for Aid to Education, and CAROL GEARY SCHNEIDER is president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. RICHARD H. HERSH CAROL GEARY SCHNEIDER on College &University Campuses Fostering Personal & Social Responsibility
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Utah State University
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FEATURED TOPIC Responsibility In an essay entitled “A Moral for an Age of Plenty,” the scientist-philosopher Jacob Bronowski (1978) tells the story of Louis Slotin, a tale that reveals in dramatic form the moral anatomy of the necessary interplay between personal and social responsibility. Slotin was a nuclear physicist who worked in the laborato- ries at Los Alamos to help develop the atomic bomb. In 1946 he was conducting an experi- ment in the lab that required assembling pieces of plutonium. He was nudging one piece toward another, by tiny movements, in order to ensure
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Fostering Personal and Social Responsibility - RICHARD H....

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