Sustained Rights Inquiry (Part 2 of 2): Teaching, Preaching, and Socialization

April 20, 2017

By Eric Hartman, Executive Director of the Center for Peace at Global Citizenship at Haverford College

Reposted with permission. Originally written for Gristwood A., & Woolf, M., (Eds.). (2017). Civil Rights and Inequalities. The CAPA Global Education Network Series.

*The author would like to thank Professors Kaye Edwards, Thomas Donahue, Carol Schilling, and Anne Preston, as well as CPGC staff members Janice Lion and Stephanie Zukerman, for their feedback on earlier versions of this article. Photo Credit: Thomas Donahue

Teaching, Preaching, and Socialization  
The prompt for this collection includes the question, “How do we avoid (and should we avoid) the danger of preaching rather than teaching?” The primary purpose of [Part 1 of this post] has been to outline a structured approach to deepening rights thinking across the curriculum, in conversation with 8-week summer internships and preceding preparatory programming. This question of “preaching rather than teaching”, however, is so important that I will comment on it at some length before closing. The CPGC, through its role at Haverford College, advances the classic goals of a liberal education. We do not believe these goals to be at odds with supporting students and the institution in not only better understanding but also advancing rights-thinking and rights-practices.

From its founding in 1833, and in part due to its historic Quaker affiliation, Haverford has worked to be an institution where the excellence of the academic program is deepened by its moral and ethical dimensions. Today, our student learning assessment plan includes, “We offer our students many opportunities to engage fundamental issues of inequality and social justice. The college encourages students to put learning into action for greater ethical purposes” (Haverford College, 2016). The role of the CPGC is to support the interaction between critical inquiry and consequential action. Though our mission and college commitments support our efforts, we see the work as entirely consistent with a long-view of the appropriate role of higher education as a critical, dynamic socializing institution nurturing a collective civilizational imagination.

21st Century Educators, in the United States in any case, have inherited a sense of loyalty to the notion of objective scholarship and objective education. This is the case despite empirically observed and theoretically deep understandings of the impossibility of objectivity, the historic roles of schools and universities as locations of moral formation and civilizational imagination, and the socializing role of educational institutions. As has been amply documented elsewhere (Hartley, 2011; Hartman, 2013), the American University has repeatedly been positioned as a civil society organization central to the imagination and implementation of democracy; an arrangement that is most fundamentally an agreement among citizens to recognize and reinforce one another’s civil rights. This is the case throughout US history.

According to historian Frederick Rudolph, “A commitment to the republic became a guiding obligation of the American college” (Hartley, 2011, p. 27). Many years later, University of Chicago President William Rainey Harper, who recruited John Dewey to that institution in 1894, professed, “The University, I contend is the prophet of democracy—the agency established by heaven itself to proclaim the principles of democracy” (Harkavy, 2006, p. 7). The 1947 Truman Report offers an even stronger connection between universities and democratic values. The report concluded with, “The first and most essential charge upon higher education is that at all levels and in all its fields of specialization, it shall be the carrier of democratic values, ideals, and process” (President’s Commission on Higher Education, 1947, p. 102).

As the United States has slowly, painfully come to better understand and speak openly about it historic and current human rights abuses, the university, its faculty, and its students, has continued to be a location of withering critique and extraordinary imagination – essential elements of moving forward together. Notably, the university is often on the slow and conservative end of aligning itself with rights provocateurs, but a repeated bellwether of activist mainstreaming – in a good way – is inclusion within university structures and discourses. Faculty positions have been earned or offered to critical, theoretically robust, artistic and creative social activists as varied as W. E. B. Du Bois, John Muir, bell hooks, Toni Morrison, Julia Alvarez, Junot Diaz, and Ta-NeHisi Coates, among many, many others.

As theorists, activists, and policy makers continue to attempt to understand the imagined and applied components of global citizenship and human rights, institutions of higher education have a central role to play in supporting critical inquiry and dialogue on these aspirational possibilities. Even offering courses on such topics as human rights as moral aspirations is a bow toward a progressive orientation; a future possibility. At Haverford College’s Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, our aim is to support critical inquiry and consequential action in accordance with achieving a more just and humane world.


Harkavy, I. (2006). The role of universities in advancing citizenship and social justice in the 21st century. Education, Citizenship, and Social Justice1(1), 5-37.

Hartley, M. (2011). Idealism and compromise and the civic engagement movement. In J. Saltmarsh & M. Hartley (Eds.), To serve a larger purpose: Engagement for democracy and the transformation of higher education (pp. 27–48). Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Hartman, E. (2013). No values, no democracy: The essential partisanship of a civic engagement movement. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 19(2): 58 – 71.

Haverford College. (2016). Student learning assessment. Downloaded from on December 12, 2016.

President’s Commission on Higher Education. (1947). Higher education for American Democracy: Vol. I, Establishing the goals. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.

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