By Halima Ouamouch
Casablanca – What are the essential elements of moral and civic character for Moroccan students as engaged citizens?
To answer this question, it is important to bear in mind that the essence of moral and civic education is to impart the understanding that we need to be generous and responsible to our family, friends, and neighbors, but that is insufficient. It is critical that we are responsible, responsive, patriotic, and loyal to our nation and society, but that, too, is insufficient. Last but not least, educated citizens must understand and accept their obligations to all humanity, to making this a nation worth defending in a safe and promising world.
According to Ernest L. Boyer: “What today’s college is teaching most successfully is competence—competence in meeting schedules, in gathering information, in responding well on tests, in mastering the details of a special field…’’ Undoubtedly, this kind of education brings about narrow-minded graduates functional within specific and limited frameworks. Knowledge and competence are acquired at the expense of other non-academic values such as the openness of our graduates on their social environments and their effective participation in its life and prosperity.
If today’s college graduates are to be positive forces in their society, they need not only to possess knowledge and intellectual capacities but also to see themselves as members of a community, as individuals with a responsibility to contribute to their communities. In other words, education is not complete until students not only have acquired knowledge but also can act on that knowledge in the world. It is interesting to note that our departments offer a clear segregation into narrower parts of the curriculum with a striking total removal of the extracurricular sphere. The curricular and extracurricular should join each other in order to permit our students to use their knowledge in the world in a more practical way.
Below are some drawbacks of our system of higher education:
When thinking of their major, our students focus almost exclusively on their major fields for most of their undergraduate education. Because the major often represents preparation for their future careers, it is especially important that students be well grounded in the moral and civic issues likely to arise in their chosen fields. It is the duty of the university to raise the consciousness of its students about their moral obligations in different disciplines.
Because civic issues and moral questions in real-life contexts are inherently interdisciplinary, the disciplinary structure of our university curricula is not well suited to facilitate the integrative thinking these complex problems require. Certainly, our departments will need to open up on each other with more ease and flexibility.
Campus life: Lack of well-structured residential campuses that are important sites for moral and civic education. Residential hall leaders create programming as well as informal exchanges around the themes of social justice and service. They can serve as microsomal models of the outside real world in which these young leaders act as potential decision makers aware of both their duties and responsibilities.
The widespread sense among students that they are at the university solely to gain career skills and credentials. This phenomenon is not new. The great majority of undergraduates today select a major because they believe it will provide their surest route to high-paid employment. For this reason, students’ impatience to complete their professional or vocational training with as few distractions as possible can make it difficult to interest them in broader goals of intellectual and personal development.
What strategies should we employ to overcome the above challenges?
Universities need to incorporate multidisciplinary courses, teaching for complex outcomes that cut across disciplines, and integrating moral and civic learning into discipline-based courses.
We need to offer new frameworks and strategies for reordering faculty and institutional priorities. In this sense, it is important to put in place a strong program of service learning to be able to graduate young men and women who possess ‘’a spirit of civic-mindedness’’ and who are actively committed to responsible participation in the communities in which they live.
Service to the community and community partnerships should be key elements of curricular and extracurricular activities and also provide the focus for much faculty research around issues such as ethics and social responsibility. In other words, the university should afford faculty opportunities to make their expertise useful to the community outside the university.
Our university should be able to develop the intellectual, ethical, and leadership potential of all its students. Hence, it should empower them in order to be committed to positive social change. We hope to see an improvement of the students’ social conditions (the establishment of well-structured campuses and affordable decent transportation). Needless to say, for our students to be empowered, they need to feel in good terms with their social environment where they are decently treated.
Halima Ouamouch is Professor of English studies at the University Hassan II, Casablanca.
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