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Identity Excellence:

A Theory of Moral Expertise for Higher Education

Perry L. Glanzer


Paperback: 184 pages
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Publish Date: August 10, 2022
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1475865481
ISBN-13: 978-1475865486

American educators have consistently splintered our humanity into pieces throughout higher education’s history. Although key leaders of America’s colonial colleges shared a common functional understanding of humans as made in God’s image with a robust but vulnerable moral conscience, latter moral philosophers did not build upon that foundation. Instead, they turned to shards of our identity to help students find their moral bearings. They sought to create ladies and gentlemen, honorable students, and finally, good professionals. As a result, fragmentation ensued as university leaders pitted these identity fragments against each other inciting a war of attrition.

American higher education—historically and inherently—is a morally formative endeavor. Yet, in order to respond to America’s moral pluralism, higher education has increasingly taken a reductionistic approach to moral formation. Consequently, it abandoned the effort to supply students with moral expertise. Current approaches help students learn how to be excellent professionals and citizens, but they fail to provide the necessary tools for living the good life—in college and beyond.

Identity Excellence: A Theory of Moral Expertise for Higher Education addresses this problem by setting forth a multi-disciplinary theory of moral expertise for fostering moral excellence in an array of important identities. To this end, it teases apart the essential elements of what it means to be excellent in an identity before discussing the philosophical, sociological, psychological, and educational processes necessary for students to internalize traditions of identity excellence as part of their own moral identities. Overall, the emergent theory exposes the shortcomings in contemporary general education, professional ethics, and co-curricular education.

Finally, this book sets forth a bold but compelling vision for a more hopeful future for American higher education. As outlined within, such education involves teaching students’ excellence in the Great Identities, as well as how to prioritize and integrate their pursuit of identity excellence.


Perry L. Glanzer is professor of Educational Foundations at Baylor University and a resident scholar with Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion. He has authored and edited thirteen books, including The Quest for Purpose: The Collegiate Search for a Meaningful Life.

Table of Contents



Introduction: Higher Education’s Confusion about Moral Expertise

Part I. Understanding the Relationship between Moral Excellence and Identity

Chapter 1. Who Am I and Who Should I Become? The Philosophical and Sociological Frames

Chapter 2. The Most Important Ingredients for Moral Motivation: From the Sociological to the Philosophical, Psychological, and Moral Frames

Chapter 3. The Challenge of Ordering Our Multiple Identities for Excellence: Combining the Philosophical, Psychological, and Sociological Frames with Theology

Part II. The Problems with Contemporary Collegiate Moral Education: Using the Frames for Critical Analysis

Chapter 4. The Ethically Challenged Curriculum: General Education

Chapter 5. The Curricular Reduction of Ethics to Professional Ethics

Chapter 6. How Contemporary Student Affairs Diminishes Moral Education

Part III. The Pursuit of Human Flourishing through Identity Excellence

Chapter 7. Teaching Excellence in the Great Identities: A Revised Educational Frame

Chapter 8. Identity Prioritization and Integration for Excellence

Conclusion: The Humanizing Imago Dei University


About the Author


The moral vision of many universities today is limited and thin. This is evident in how they conceive of their ultimate aim or purpose. It is also evident in their curricula, pedagogical approaches, and student life programs. In Identity Excellence: A Theory of Moral Expertise for Higher Education, Perry L. Glanzer articulates an alternative moral vision for universities—one that is rich, provocative, complex, interdisciplinary, and humanizing. Clearly and engagingly structured and written, Glanzer’s book will be of interest to anyone concerned with the aims of higher education, and especially to those who believe a university education should be personally transformative.

— Jason Baehr
Professor of Philosophy, Loyola Marymount University

In this compelling book for educators and students, Perry L. Glanzer draws on a career’s worth of expertise and a range of academic disciplines to make the important argument that the current emphasis on preparing students for political or professional probity is insufficient. We must lift our eyes and broaden our focus in order to prepare students for the pursuit of moral excellence across all the dimensions of their lives, especially the Great Identities. This will involve the pursuit of moral expertise as part of a community and the ability to effectively prioritize and integrate different identities—tasks fruitfully undertaken within a theological frame recognizing humans as made in God’s image.

— Jonathan Brant
Founding Director, The Oxford Character Project

What would college look like if it truly prepared students to live life well? In Identity Excellence: A Theory of Moral Expertise for Higher Education, Perry L. Glanzer gives us a brilliant blueprint: education for excellence in the Great Identities.

— Thomas Lickona
Author, “Educating for Character”