May 16, 2006

Ethical and intellectual development in the college years

I'm thoroughly enjoying William G. Perry's Forms of Ethical and Intellectual Development in the College Years. It's not an easy read by any means, but fascinating, despite having been originally published in 1970.
Here's a taste:
In our daily counseling with students whose presenting concerns centered on their academic work, we had been impressed with the variety of the ways in which the students responded to the relativism which permeates the intellectual and social atmosphere of a pluralistic university. Among the students who consulted us, a few seemed to find the notion of multiple frames of reference wholly unintelligible. For example, in response to such an assignment as "compare the concepts of the tragic heroine exmplefied by Antigone and Cordelia," these students would fail to perceive the direct object of the verb "compare" and would write comparisons of Antigone and Cordelia, as persons, against the background of a single, implicit frame of reference. We came to feel that persistent misperception of the form of such intellectual tasks, even after repeated explanations of them, could not be ascribed to intellective factors alone. Others responded with violent shock to their confrontation in dormitory bull sessions, or in their academic work, or both. Other experienced a joyful sense of liberation.

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