The Schooled Heart: Moral Formation in American Higher Education

The Schooled Heart: Moral Formation in American Higher Education is a deeply provocative work. Editors Michael D. Beaty and Douglas V. Henry, both of Baylor University, put forth the objectives of the book in what I found to be an enlightening and engaging introduction. Tracing the history of the institutional position of moral formation once held in higher education, they argue that the traditional emphasis on building morality was displaced primarily by the epistemological shift that occurred during the 1930s. According to their view, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, liberal education at universities embraced revelation from God as the source of absolute moral truth. However, during the 1930s, the prominence of the scientific method caused a shift away from revelation as an accepted source of truth. They assert this has led to the demise of liberal education’s once harmonious union of science and moral truth and has reduced a university education to career training. What is worse, this epistemological shift has aided in the escalation of moral relativism, which denies that revelation from God establishes absolute moral truth. Their book is, in part, a response to Derek Bok’s Universities and the Future of America and is a cry for a return to the type of university-level liberal education that integrates moral education. They assert this change must flow from and be founded in the Christian tradition, but it still should uphold the scientific method as a viable way to obtain knowledge. They issue a formal call to all Christian universities to return to the original foundations of liberal education, which they contend were to educate the whole man and to “initiate students into a quest for goodness,” not merely provide them with the skills necessary to succeed in their chosen occupations. I found this entire volume to be deeply provocative and significant in the context of what the academy professes to believe and do—particularly to those interested in scholarly pursuit in the unique context of faith-based universities such as Brigham Young University.

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 49:3
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