CONTEXTS FOR THE TEACHING OF VALUES

Karl D. Hartzell


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This paper is given in the light of two questions posed by those calling this conference. "Does and should the University, deliberately or otherwise, shape the values of its students?" and "By what means and to what effect does it do so?"

First let me make a few basic assumptions: a) Valuing and knowing are two interrelated functions of the self and the mind. If we do not know anything, there is nothing we can value. If we have no values, we haven't the faintest idea about what to do with our knowledge. b) Both knowing and valuing deal with the same reality, and both provide components of our knowledge. c) The juxtaposition of facts and values is a false dichotomy. d) All values are facts; not all facts are values, and not all values, interpreted as beliefs, are necessarily true.

Two other statements, one I consider to be a fact, the other an opinion. First, universities do influence student values by what is taught or not taught about values in the classroom. Universities are absolutely dependent upon the character, interests, and competence of the faculty members they appoint. What universities are consciously looking for in the faculty they appoint varies widely with the character, interests, and competence of those individuals who do the appointing. Less consciously, universities influence student values by the values exhibited in the structure and maintenance of the physical plant, the valuational hierarchies in the institution's organization and the personal behavior of those on campus, whether they be the students and their leaders, the faculty and its leaders, the deans, provosts, presidents, or trustees.

Secondly, what universities should do is give greater atten- tion to producing graduates who are valuationally literate. If they will do so, state and local police, federal marshals, the F.B.I., prison wardens and parole committees, Congressional and corporate ethics committees, and investigative reporters will have less to do. I propose to review briefly five principal contexts for this many sided teaching-learning process.


Context One is the self, the mind and the motivation of the one who teaches, whether professor or athletic coach.

Values of one kind or another are usually involved uncon- sciously in the teaching and the subject matter of practically all disciplines, but today we are concerned with conscious teaching about values as a field in itself. Why does a faculty member want to teach a particular course on ethics, or more broadly, on values? If there has been no prior thinking, and no resulting desire to teach, there will be no such course.

What factors affect the desire to teach about values? One influence is our genetic endowment. To my knowledge, the physical basis of intellectual characteristics has yet to be seriously explored. However, I am convinced that there is such a basis. There are family characteristics, other than those that are visible, that are transmitted from one generation to another. Take for example the sense of humor, a way with people, and musical and mathematical abilities which we refer to as "gifts." In the present instance we are assuming a predisposition to be interested in values and in the teaching about values. Let me ask a couple of questions as to why this may be the case.


How many of you are sons and daughters of ministers, rectors, or rabbis?

How many of you have parents who are theologians, philoso phers, or ethicists?


How many of you belong in neither category?


A second influence other than the genetic is that of the intellectual and emotional exchange within your immediate family environment. As long as we are focusing on the family, these ge- netic and environmental influences are difficult to separate. Factors outside the family, however, also influence the direction of a person's thinking. Association with other individuals in school or college, in church or synagogue, or on the job all affect our thinking. Let me ask a few additional questions.


How many of you were strongly influenced in your thinking about values by your association with strong individuals outside of your family?

How many of you were influenced in your thinking by a specific occasion or situation which you have encountered?

How many of you attribute your interest in teaching about values to what you have read in professional journals, in the press, or in general reading about current situations in this country?

How many of you believe you possess a keen sense of injustice, inequity, inadequacy and entertain a desire to effect changes in a situation? In JFK's phrase, "To make a difference."

How many of you regard yourselves as being by nature critics, problem identifiers and potential problem solvers?

I suggest that a problem be defined as an observed discrepancy between things or situations as they are, and things or situations as you would like to have them be, or think and believe they ought to be.

This feeling, believing, or thinking that things ought to be other than they are, presupposes another clause that is inferred or assumed, but often not expressed. That clause is the value clause introduced by an "if"; that is, if what we value is to be achieved. For example your mother would say, "You ought to put on your rubbers." The inference being "if you want to keep your feet dry." Dry feet are to be valued when it rains. Or some professor will say that you ought to take a Ph.D., if you wish to have a successful teaching career at the college level. Or one should teach about values, if college graduates are to become more valuationally literate than many of them seem to be today.

This first context then, is the thinking of the self and the mind of the individual professor. For me, the mind is not the self, but its instrument, its servant. There is little agreement among psychiatrists as to the nature of the self, but any self is best characterized by the internalized structure of the values by which it operates. The self could ask itself some such questions as these:


Questions: Why am I interested in the teaching of values? What is my motivation?

What is the hierarchy of those values I wish to teach?

How best do I think the values in which I am interested can be taught? By prescription in the abstract? By the study of contemporary problems and issues? By the use of historical exam- ples? (I am reminded of Santayana's famous dictum in volume one of his The Life of Reason. "He who cannot remember the past is condemned to repeat it.")

One other question for the self. What does it take for me to be remembered with admiration and affection by my students?


Now one may wish to teach a course about values, but approval of its nature and purpose by others is required. It must fit somewhere in the curriculum. The second context for the teaching of values is the basic structure of the university curriculum. It reflects the thinking of the faculty, one's colleagues as they are organized by programs, curriculum committees, departments, divisions, or colleges. Much depends upon the backgrounds of the individuals in charge. Much also depends upon how well the case for a particular course is presented, and to whom. We understand well the rationale for higher education, but why include the teaching of values in what appears to be an overcrowded curriculum?

The initiative for teaching courses about values may come from the teacher, or from those representing the existing structure of the university. For example, a course in axiology or value theory has a better chance of being accepted in a department of philosophy than in departments of history or psychology. A course on American values might fit today in the American sections of departments either of History or Sociology. A course on family values might fit in with courses on Social Ethics, however the field of Ethics may be organized. The department of Political Science might host a course on the comparative values, or the competing value hierarchies, of our political parties. It could also crosslist with History and Philosophy a course on the evolution of the Anglo-American political value system which we have inherited, and the reasons for maintaining, changing, or abolishing the system. The department of Religion could offer a course on the comparative religious value hierarchies of the three monotheisms.

Such examples are given from the departmental point of view. In General Education programs a course on the valuational paradigm, or field as a whole, with its respective parameters and definitions might be suitable by itself, or in modified form as an introduction to the language of the humanities. If departmental or program connections cannot be obtained, specific courses could be offered as independent electives.

Whatever determinations are made will be reflections of those members of the faculty who, despite their training as disciplinary specialists, can still think as generalists. Hopefully, department chairmen will at least fall into the latter category part of the time, for there are ways of thinking about the curriculum other than as the standard classification of departments and divisions. One way would be to think of it as contributing to five highly valued aspects of educated persons; educated persons being a) those who are at home in their cultural heritage, who do not suffer from the current cultural amnesia, b) those who are thoroughly familiar with the contemporary world in which they live, that is with the various realms of human activity, c) those who are oriented within themselves, who understand and are at peace with themselves, d) those who possess a hierarchy or system of personal values; economic, political, social, aesthetic, ethical, and spiritual, and finally e) those who have developed their personal abilities. It is the function of the curriculum to contribute to the development of these highly valued attributes that support the competence and integrity of an educated person.


All teaching occurs within a third context, the University itself. This community of scholars has its own ethos, its own spirit and purpose. Expressions of the unique values, or character, of a college or university are to be found in its catalog, in interviews with admissions officers, letters and talks to alumni, and convocations and commencement ceremonies during the academic year. Institutional values are expressed in the physical plant, lawns, flowers, trees, the architecture and spacing of the buildings. A sense of order, calm, and beauty may or may not be present. The atmosphere which these people and things create is reflected in the personalities and behavior of the students and faculty.

We all know that in personal relations some values and disvalues are taught by personal example rather than precept. On the campus there are models everywhere; in classrooms, dormitories, fraternities and sororities, administration offices, and on the playing fields. Kindness is learned through the experience of receiving and giving it. Intellectual honesty and rigor is demon- strated not only in the classroom, but in the problem solving capacity of the administration. Morale, according to a Menninger Report is made at the top. There is a trickle down function. Just as the professor is the prime exhibit of academic values in the classroom, so the President and his staff reflect, in what they say and do, the hierarchy of values of the institution they represent.

Professors may have their classrooms, but Presidents have larger and more complex classrooms to which students, parents, alumni, townspeople, and the public at large request access. The number and variety of problems has mushroomed along with the staff to handle them. Let me give you an example.

My grandfather graduated from the Boston Latin School and started college in Cambridge. One day he was throwing a ball up to a roommate on the second floor of the dormitory next to Massachusetts Hall where classes were in session. He was summoned to the President's office and entered with fear and trembling. President Eliot looked up from his desk and said, "Mr. Drew, a private admonition." That was all. A private admonition was known as the lowest form of punishment, but it was administered directly by the President. Today, that would not be possible.

Universities and colleges seem today to be receiving increased amounts of unfinished business from the home. Some freshmen are no longer house broken. They need to be taught manners, politeness, consideration for others, respect for other people's property and tolerance for the beliefs and values of others. These social values can be taught best by the examples of upperclassmen, but they must be reinforced by faculty and administration.

Civility, as the demonstration of respect for others despite differences in points of view, is less common these days. The fallacy of the argumentum ad hominem, taught to me in my sophomore logic class, is taking its place. Tolerance for differences suffers from the lack of a common value structure. We shall be in trouble if our admiration for multiculturalism results in forgetting what we have in common. To be sure, I am an Anglo-German white Protestant upperclass male, but today that is a divisive epithet, based upon a set of analytical sociological categories. I am also an American, a citizen of the United States and a reasonably well educated adult human being. Anybody, regardless of color, race, sex, religion or national origin, can qualify for those inclusive labels.

Academic values are pretty well known. At the institutional level academic freedom is freedom from governmental regulation and freedom to select faculty members on the basis of ability. There is also the duty to guarantee freedom of expression for teachers in the performance of the teaching and research for which they were hired. The performance of these functions by administrators requires intelligence, understanding, honesty, a willingness to seek and tell the truth, fairness, tolerance, and a willingness to assume and discharge responsibility. These highly valued personal characteristics, i.e. these values, are also required of teachers. In addition, however, is the ability to inspire effort and interest, and to develop rigor, objectivity, and independence of thought on the part of students.

If academic life is to continue uninterrupted, there must be order in university affairs. There must be trust between students, faculty and administrations. Although each has its own responsibilities, responsibility for the presence of these values on campus lies primarily with the administration - what it is and what it does. Administrations are ultimately responsible for the character of this third context.


A fourth context for the teaching of values is the contemporary world off campus. Unless values are to be considered in the abstract, those who teach must draw from it examples of the values and disvalues underlying the problems and issues we face today. Here we see values in action, and teaching about values can be a very lively enterprise. We in America face decisions in greater numbers and complexity than ever before. But the range of our valuing is limited. It is conditioned by, or a function of, the extent of our knowledge of reality; of what there is to be known. Why? Because we cannot value what we do not know or have not experienced. Ignorance is an absolute limitation on the scope or range of our valuing. This is where an education, formal or more experiential, comes in. It expands the potential range and the wisdom of our valuation, even our ability to recognize and acknowledge our ignorance.

To teach about American values we must know which ones they are, and be able to describe their action throughout the time scale of past, present, and future. We have inherited from our European ancestors the political values which were articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to our Constitution. These were embodied in forms such as the American Constitution with its first ten ammendments and its provisions for a "delicate balance" between the executive, legislative, and judicial powers. We may, or may not, recognize the genius of this arrangement which for more than two hundred years has, with the one exception of a civil war between the states, made it possible to resolve our political, economic, and social problems with a minimum of bloodshed. This American "order" represents the successful implementation in our complex society of one of the fundamental conditional values. The maintenance of order, together with such basic values as freedom and personal and national security, is a prime function of our federal, state, and local governments. America also is continuing to participate in attempts to institutionalize these political values at the international level.

In economic forms such as the corporation, the trade union, the banking system, and their respective regulatory agencies we have been the beneficiaries of other valuational results of past problem solving in this country and elsewhere. In the family, the church, the school, and the university we have inherited some of the oldest social valuational solutions of the Western World. Over time some of the instrumental forms have changed, but not the basic values which these forms embody.

In this fourth context of the everyday world in which we live, the list of problems, and the values involved in their identification and solution, is long and daunting. If we are to teach about values we must make clear what they are and in specific instances the way they function, sometimes as standards. Time does not permit more than a brief mention of some of our most pressing problems. We have economic problems such as the annual budget, the national debt, the balance of trade, nuclear power, union power, corporation power, insurance costs, government regulations, and taxes. We have social problems such as poverty, violence in the home, on the streets, in the movies and on television, crime, drugs, alcoholism, smoking, cheating, divorce, single parent families, teen age pregnancies, rape, adoption, pornography, racial and sex discrimination, indoctrination, and political correctness.

We have political problems such as the structure of the federal government, constitutional amendments, term limits for legislators as well as the president, the relations between the legislative, executive and judicial branches, and the line item veto. Also a problem for us today is the proper role of the federal government in the solution of certain social problems such as abortion, the protection of the environment, the administration of the public health and welfare, and the advancement of science, the humanities, and the arts. Behind every one of these recognized problems are one or more values. Life in America is a gold mine for the teaching of values.

Just one example of a current many-valued situation. Today we face the very tough problem of institutionalizing more effectively the value of fiscal responsibility at the national level. We are not sure that the solution lies in a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. But we are sure that the preferance of the Congress and the Presidency for continuing annual deficits is a problem demanding a solution. Why? Although we do value maintaining an adequate segment of the annual budget for unrestricted social expenditures, that segment is continually being reduced by increases in the required annual payments of interest on the national debt, and those payments required monthly in support of the national entitlement programs.

To quote a well known American General, "Realistically, we have only two alternatives; either we reduce the entitlement system or we raise taxes to pay for it. We cannot keep balancing the books by increasing the deficit. Yet many politicians want to exempt such programs from serious fiscal scrutiny because to do otherwise risks political suicide. However, until our leaders are willing to talk straight to the American people and the people are willing to accept hard realities, no solution will be found to relieve our children and grandchildren of the crushing debt that we are currently amassing as their inheritance." (Powell, 607) This is a multi-valued financial problem. Pick your values.

Thinking about our children is a projection into the future. This we do with increasing frequency. We are now becoming more aware of such problems as the pollution of the environment, the increase in population, the appearance of new diseases, rising prices, and the abnormal behavior of supposedly normal individuals.

We come now to a fifth, and for this paper a final, context for the teaching of values. It is the valuational paradigm, or field, of the values we have discovered and now hold. Aside from its abstract form as value theory, and the discipline of ethics focused on human conduct, this field of human valuing, and the resulting values, is customarily missing from the liberal arts curriculum. What are its parameters?

This fundamental segment of the life of the mind and self can be approached in a number of ways. We can search for the origins of values, and study the way they have evolved historically. There is the structural or analytical approach which includes the attempt to find order through the development of classifications and hierarchies. A functional approach focuses on the past and present roles played by our values in the identification and solution of human problems.

Underlying each of these approaches is the bipolar character of all values. The first pole is what there is to value - in short, reality as we can know it. The second pole is we the valuers, who value what we know. One way to think about pole one, what there is to value, is to regard reality as a series of seven principal environments: first, the physical universe; second, the biosphere of living things existing in our solar system only on the planet Earth; third, civilization which mankind has created within the biosphere; fourth, the physical body, an environment within which each of us lives happily, if we do not polute it; fifth, the mind each of us is given to develop into our house of intellect; and sixth, the world of human minds.

This sixth environment which we have inherited is the collective knowledge and values of outstanding individuals recorded since mankind's earliest days. We access this world of ideas through reason, and we continue to contribute to it today. One other environment is that of infinity; infinity of time, space, and the intelligence we refer to as God. It fascinates us. We try to understand its infinitely large and infinitely small dimensions. As intelligence we value it most extensively, and within ourselves, we value it most intensively. These seven environments of pole one are the life support systems of the human self. We value within each environment on the basis of what we know or have experienced.

We ourselves, who do the valuing, are the second pole. We seek to know our selves: what we value, how we value, and why we value. We humans have physical needs, desires, interests, intellectual needs, and more particularly the needs of the self; i.e. the sharing of knowledge, achievement, success and failure, joy, sorrow, friendship, and love. These conditions and needs continue to influence our valuing. Our values, which we have acquired over the ages constitute this fifth context for teaching. In number they are legion. Let me categorize some of them briefly.

Basic contextual or conditional values for humans include order, rationality, the physical survival factors without which we would not be here, life and health, security or safety, freedom, beauty, truth, goodness, love, trust, and peace, justice, equality of treatment socially and before the law, economic, political, social, and educational opportunity, and wisdom. For centuries, ever since the maxims of Ptahhotep in the third millennium B.C. in Egypt, the code of Hammurabi in the early second millennium in Babylon, and the Mosaic Code of the late second millennium in Palestine, we have been busy implementing these values in our culture.

Some personal characteristics that we value include the ten "virtues" that provide the structure of William J. Bennett's Book of Virtues, self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, friendship, work, courage, perseverance, honesty, loyalty, faith.

In addition there are the personal characteristics listed by Milton Rokeach as instrumental values: ambitious, broadminded, capable, cheerful, clean, courageous, forgiving, helpful, imaginative, independent, intellectual, logical, loving, obedient, and polite. These values, and many others such as accuracy and efficiency, have been acquired from the experience of the race. Collectively this fifth context is the source from which we can draw examples of values to be taught. They do not have to be invented. They were discovered and tested in the life of the race. We have retained them externally as part of our culture, internally as components of individual character.


To return to the two questions posed by those who called this conference. The university is a limited environment within civilization. As such, it inevitably shapes a student's values. But also, if the university is to be true to its basic educational purpose of meeting the needs of both the student and society, it must make a conscious effort to expose students to the valuational component of human existence. This can be done by giving careful thought to the appointment of faculty members and to the content of the curriculum, and by giving equally careful thought to the quality of life among students, faculty, and administration.


Copyright Karl D. Hartzell

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