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Social Responsibility Education

A short article by Paula Wasley in the Chronicle of Higher Education reminded me of something I had discussed with colleagues awhile ago. Paula was reporting on a survey done by the Association of American College and Universities, titled the Personal and Social Responsibility Institutional Inventory. The main points that were taken away focused on student and faculty views on how well their campuses were providing personal and social responsibility. This topic spans ethical practices, personal representation, and social activities.

Though the figures weren’t completely shocking, at least to me, the question lies as to who would be best suited for teaching such lessons? Granted, this question wouldn’t be appropriate for campuses who were willing to hire a specialist for such curricula, but smaller campuses may begin looking for an advocate.

To me there seems to be a connected path between some of the lessons we are teaching through Information Literacy. When we talk about authoritative sources and avoiding plagiarism, aren’t we instilling some small part of ethical behavior in the student?

With all our ventures into the realm of social media, couldn’t we begin to formulate some simple guidelines for ethical, professional, and safe behaviors in Web 2.0? (i.e. Don’t put your SSN and class schedule on a public profile…)

There used to be a time when public libraries helped to instill civil behavior in their patrons. Of course, society was a bit more conservative then, but wouldn’t it be nice if civility and decency were a part of our educations.

Now I know I am inviting a slew of comments about the “sliding slope of judging what is or isn’t decent” or “that type of education should be taught at home” but are we so oblivious as to not see the gaping holes in social interactions in this day and age. When was the last time someone held the door for you, said thank you or excuse me, managed not to litter their public conversations with obscenities and vulgarities, or presented themselves in a way that didn’t look like they just rolled out of bed after a winter hibernation cycle?

Coming back down from that Victorian soap box, only time will tell where the initiatives to address these concerns on campuses will come. Hopefully libraries that can help, will help; and their examples will help to increase our ability to educate and prepare our patrons for life outside of academia.

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