When attempting to solve a problem it is important to first think of the actions that have already been taken. Regardless of what the problem is, the field it is in, or how complex the solution is, it is best to start research with what has already been tried. Whether previous attempts were successful or not, something can be learned from them. After all, according to Thomas Edison, failures are only discoveries of what does not work. While contemplating how universities should instill character, virtue, and citizenship, I began to think of the programs already in place not only at my university but also elsewhere, because contrary to some Sooners’ beliefs the world does not actually revolve around the University of Oklahoma.
Equipping students with moral virtues, a respectable character, and a dedication to citizenship, all go hand in hand. If any one is instilled, the others are built upon. In my search for what is already being done to instill such values in students, I found that from smaller universities like SWOSU to our university to Harvard, some things are identical. All universities have clubs for political, racial, ethnic, athletic, and/or academic camaraderie. Whether a student is a member of the soccer club, the mathematics club, or the Korean Association, they become a member because they feel they have something in common with fellow participants. Having organizations and encouraging involvement is important when cultivating upstanding characters because these organizations promote diversity and lead to more open-minded individuals. Universities’ similarities do not end with the diversity of their clubs. Many also have policies on academic integrity, substance use, and racial relations, among other things, examples can be found here and here. Also aligned in many institutions are the General Education courses at various universities including SWOSU, OU, and Harvard. These core programs were implemented and continue to better prepare students for entering the world and being productive, informed citizens. These include sciences, foreign languages, cultures, American government courses, and the like. All of these programs in combination impart virtue, character, and citizenship to those who attend universities.
What more can be done to ensure college graduates are the citizens that society expects? Not much. The foundation for virtues, character, and citizenship are already built. It is up to the students to lay the bricks. Having a respectable character, moral virtues, and dedicated citizenship is much easier said than done. Just like laying bricks, sometimes being upstanding is a labor of love—love for fellow citizens, for the university, and for the country. In the end, it is an individual’s choice whether or not he or she takes advantage of the foundation most universities so readily provide.
Despite all these programs that promote morals, this is not the primary mission of universities. Voting, making good decisions, and being respectable will not admit anyone into the university, nor will it get anyone expelled. Poor academic performance on the other hand could result in backlash and/or eventual dismissal. Even if the university does not dismiss a student, getting into most colleges post general education courses requires a 2.0 minimum college GPA. If this is not sufficient for determining the University’s purpose, OU’s mission statement says, “The mission of the University of Oklahoma is to provide the best possible educational experience for our students through excellence in teaching, research and creative activity, and service to the state and society.” The mission statement is clear that the goal of the university is to provide an educational experience, not to instill morals. An educational experience could and in my experience usually does include morals, but the explicit purpose is furthering one’s education. This does not imply that virtues and character are unimportant, but rather that they are a secondary product of knowledge in higher education. They are obviously very important as many universities, not only the one with the best colors, have them.