The Character Quotient
Frank Shushok, Jr.
“In a time when our rhetoric and practice in higher education tilts more in the direction of skill development for well-compensated employment, will we also have the courage to prepare students to live life as human beings who care about injustice, fight oppression, and stand up for those on the margins? Higher education is a collective commitment comprised of the grandest hopes for a better world. What higher calling could there be than to bear witness to that?”
David Brooks Talks Character Development and Student Formation in an Interview with Frank Shushok, Jr.
David Brooks & Frank Shushok, Jr.
In this conversation with Frank Shushok, Jr., David Brooks talks about his increasing focus on emotion and spirituality. He criticizes the current achievement culture that focuses solely on academic success at the expense of the personal, moral, and social aspects of our students. Of particular inter-est is his description of his ideal university. It would be based on the “great books” and introduce students to the primary value systems of our history. Although this type of education may not be effective job preparation, Brooks claims it is more important to be a good person than get a job. He recommends that his students take risks and pursue friendships in order to create satisfying lives.
We are all familiar with the many calls to hold higher education accountable—for rising tuition, low and slow graduation rates, and lack of job preparedness on the part of those who do graduate, just for a few examples. Daniel Seymour diagnoses the skepticism and distrust of these calls as the mismatch between how our institutions have traditionally functioned and the expectations of a rapidly changing, complex society.
Ksenija Simic-Muller describes math as a “powerful tool to read the world,” a concept she borrows from Paulo Friere. For example, we are constantly bombarded with percentages, statistics, and graphs. An understanding of mathematics helps us understand the meaning of this information. More importantly, to Simic-Muller, such an understanding helps us recognize the societal forces that shape our world.
Genia M. Bettencourt
After being out of the social media mainstream on a trip to New Zealand, Bettencourt was highly aware of her colleagues’ seemingly conditioned need to check and respond to texts, posts, and tweets during in-person conversations upon her return. Bettencourt notes that higher education is in a strong position to help our students become critical consumers, espe-cially of social media. She suggests we have conversations about technology usage and values and model a healthy balance between technological and interpersonal connection.