Education Editorial: Civility in Higher Education

By: Bill Bosher - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Over the past several months, the Chronicle of Higher Education has run articles that look at "civility" in colleges and universities. The discussion has been anything but civil.

While on a recent flight to Atlanta, I saw Dr. Dale Jones, Vice President of Hampden Sydney College and former colleague in the Wilder School at VCU. He asked if I had seen a new book on civility in higher education. While reading the first chapter, I saw that the tragedy at Virginia Tech was highlighted. The issue of incivility was quickly identified as a failure to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.

History clearly reflects that higher education in America was established to develop the morality and character of its students. It seems that for 150 years this premise was held without deviation.

The text highlighted that a change occurred after the Civil War. The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876 and notes the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. "What are we aiming at?" Gilman asked in his installation address.

"The encouragement of research ... and the advancement of individual scholars…"

It seems that with one wave the tide changed from developing everyone for the common good to developing someone for his own good. We to me!

Now nearly 150 years later we wonder why civility is lacking. Perhaps it is because we taught them that way. There must have been a reason that our founders opened the Constitution with "We the people" rather than "I the individual"

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