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Character on campus, and afterward

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Duke University has long run a campus program to support students in moral reflection and in developing personal integrity. But this type of education - so essential later in the workplace - remains notably absent in most schools of higher learning.

Academics, of course, are the core reason for college or university. Duke, for one, doesn't neglect that side of learning. And yet, according to a new survey, more than half of all faculty in higher ed say it's important that undergraduates develop moral character and enhance their self- understanding.

The survey, conducted among 421 institutions by an ongoing project at the University of California at Los Angeles, reveals a big disconnect between teachers and students that may explain why so few schools of higher education spend much effort on character education.

Connecting moral reasoning to spiritual values is often essential in character education. And students don't shy away from telling pollsters that they want spiritual help and growth in higher ed. But their professors remain shy about giving them that. Less than a third of professors say colleges should facilitate a student's spiritual development, while a similar survey of students found nearly half say it is important that colleges encourage their personal expression of spirituality.

Discussing religion or spirituality in the classroom is indeed difficult for teachers. And yet they also know that preparing students to act morally in their chosen profession is especially critical to their career success, not to mention society at large.


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