Character Formation and Vocational Discernment
A robust embrace of the practices of vocational reflection and discernment necessarily includes character formation as part of the role of all educators. A number of recent commentators have objected to this claim, arguing that professors should limit themselves to the content of their disciplines and leave matters of character formation to others. These accounts suffer from a number of limitations, including an attenuated perspective on the academic vocation, inattention to the history of liberal education, and a willingness to separate moral virtues from intellectual virtues. This narrow view of teaching gives aid and comfort to those who would “disaggregate” higher education into a variety of instrumental functions, each available on the open market. A more coherent account of education recognizes that character formation will occur whether the teacher realizes it or not, and that we therefore need to attend to its nature and goals. This in turn will open the way for deeper vocational reflection and discernment.
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