Teaching Social Responsibility
| David Hoopes |
I am on the planning committee and the goals committee here at Cal State Dominguez Hills. At a recent meeting it came up that one of the schools goals was academic excellence and social responsibility. I suggested that they are two very different topics but was roundly rebuked. I have a few problems with considering social responsibility to be part of the same goal as academic excellence for college professors.
My first complaint is that “social responsibility” is not very easy to define or operationalize. Usually, it seems to imply donating money to some left wing cause. I might be able to find some left wing causes I like. However, I’m not sure how teaching students to tithe is similar to teaching students a course of study or an academic discipline.
My second complaint is that I don’t think academicians are qualified to teach social responsibility. I admit to being jaded and cynical. But I do not find academicians to be shining examples of virtue. Getting a Ph.D. in management, economics, or sociology hardly qualifies one to determine what students should consider to be socially virtuous.
I do think colleges (especially state funded) have some obligation to promote citizenship and promote and encourage ethical and moral behavior. Additionally, I am very happy to have those who specialize in ethics and related topics to teach them (the philosophy department?).
However, again, I don’t see this as our primary mandate. I might feel better about this if I felt that academics were paragons of ethical and moral behavior. On the contrary, I am continually disappointed in the standards to which academicians hold themselves. Having worked a variety of odd and not so odd jobs before heading to the academy I feel pretty comfortable saying that academicians certainly do not appear to have superior ethical and moral behavior.
What, you might ask, makes me think of academics as being ethically or morally lacking? Well that’s for another post.