“Values and Character Formation in the Liberal Arts Classroom”
24-25 September 2010
We offer an interdisciplinary forum in which members of the academic community can explore the relationships between Christian theology, ethics, and practice, and the tradition of scholarship and teaching of the liberal arts within the university. We especially welcome presentations that are exploratory in nature and that raise broad questions about central areas of concern to the liberal arts classroom.
Keynote Speaker: Dr. David Lyle Jeffrey, Distinguished Professor of Literature and Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University, “The Place of Truth in the Liberal Arts.”
Conference Theme: To what extent ought teachers in the liberal arts classroom seek to influence or alter their students’ character and values? The perennial question has been raised most recently by Stanley Fish, who promotes a values-neutral classroom, whereas others, from Martha Nussbaum to Judith Butler, have promoted clear ethical and even political agendas in the classroom. The University of Mobile Forum on Christianity and the Liberal Arts wants to discuss the ways in which professors at Christian colleges and universities, as well as Christian faculty at secular institutions, are addressing this question.
The Forum seeks proposals for presentations on questions such as the following:
- What lessons might be learned from historical interactions between Christianity and the liberal arts?
- Is it possible to achieve a consensus within the Christian community on the definition of virtue and on which virtues are most desirable?
- In what ways has “the scandal of the evangelical mind” affected Protestant colleges and universities, and in what ways can the problem be alleviated?
- What might Protestants and Catholics learn from one another and from their historical approaches to liberal arts education?
- How should we address the moral and intellectual fragmentation of the postmodern student and/or teacher?
- Must the professor who wishes to influence his or her students’ characters abandon scholarly impartiality and disinterestedness?
- What is the value of a liberal arts education, as distinguished from mere technical competence or credentialed job security? And how can that value be demonstrated to skeptical students?
- What specific values can be taught through a particular discipline, such as literature, history, art, the sciences, or philosophy? Can some values be taught through only one or a few disciplines?
- How can Christian colleges and universities best prepare liberal arts students for service in local churches, and how can these institutions partner with local churches in forming the characters of their students?
- How should a Christian teaching at a secular institution approach the matter of character formation in the classroom?
- What is the nature of true virtue, and can it be developed in students apart from genuine faith?
- In what ways should a liberal arts curriculum be structured, and can a realistic balance be achieved between the elective system and a standardized course of study?
- What is the role of academic freedom at Christian institutions, especially those with a specific theological identity?
- How is one to address areas of conflict between the orthodoxies of one’s discipline and the orthodoxies of one’s theological commitments? (e.g. questions of origins in the sciences, questions of historiography or social constructions in the social sciences, questions of hermeneutics in literature.)
Proposals for panels are most welcome. We are especially seeking presentations that are relevant to faculty across the disciplines, and that are accessible to an audience of both specialists and non-specialists. Presentations should be 15-20 minutes long. Please send a 500-word abstract to either conference co-chair by 14 May 2010.
Registration Fee in Advance: $40 for professionals, $30 for graduate students and clergy.
Registration Fee at the Door: $60
(Registration fee covers Friday evening dinner and Saturday lunch.)
Stephen J. Schuler firstname.lastname@example.org
Chad P. Stutz email@example.com