Teaching Social Responsibility

26 November 2007 at 11:52 pm 4 comments

| 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.

Entry filed under: Former Guest Bloggers, Myths and Realities, Teaching.

Pure Inflation and Nominal Interest Rates Integrity and the Academy: Are Academicians in a Position to Preach About Social Responsibility?

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Peter Klein  |  27 November 2007 at 1:01 am

    Interestingly, when other professional disciplines, such as medicine, teach ethics, they often outsource the teaching to professional philosophers or ethicists. Yet business schools rarely do this. See these earlier comments.

  • 2. dhoopes  |  27 November 2007 at 5:46 pm

    Those cites in your comment are great.

  • 3. dan meidinger  |  27 February 2008 at 1:10 pm

    “Social Responsibility” does not necessarily mean giving money to “a left wing cause”. One could choose which companies to purchase from, avoiding exploitative companies and instead looking for companies who subscribe to “fair trade” practices. One could also lobby different governmental levels to pressure companies that do not subscribe to “fair trade” policies, or even simply volunteer one’s time to a charitable organization to help the less fortunate in one’s own community.

  • 4. David Hoopes  |  1 March 2008 at 9:19 pm

    I agree Dan. I think my point was, in part, that “social responsibility” as used does mean supporting leftest causes. And, since at least half the country and much more than half the world disagrees with standard leftest politics trying to satisfy those chanting for social responsibility may be an irresponsible act. Further, if a company pursues social responsibility that does not fit in the current politically correct thinking it will not be counted as socially responsible.

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