Achieving the Mission Statement: Cultivating Wisdom and Moral Discernment among USC Students

Cosponsored by the Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics


"We strive constantly for excellence in teaching knowledge and skills to our students, while at the same time helping them to acquire wisdom and insight, love of truth and beauty, moral discernment, understanding of self, and respect and appreciation for others."

  • Stanley Fish, for one, thinks such mission statements promise far more than they can deliver: "character cannot be taught, at least not by Ph.D.'s in English or Chemistry."
  • Bell Hooks, by contrast, believes knowledge must be linked to practice: a "sacred" aspect of a teacher's vocation is "not merely to share information but to share in the intellectual and spiritual growth of our students."

In "Achieving the Mission," three members of the USC community reflect on the role of moral discernment in education.
  • Pat Haden: When an athlete can separate the winning from the effort, she has cultivated wisdom and moral discernment in my judgment.
  • Darline Robles: Superintendents who lead with a strong moral compass play a critical role in building a culture of integrity in their school districts.
  • Alex Capron: To develop moral discernment, medical and law students must accept the obligations that come with their relationships with clients or patients; become proficient in gathering relevant data (and listening to stakeholders' views) when faced with moral dilemmas; and be familiar with the major responses to such dilemmas.

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