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The Dismantling of Moral Education:

How Higher Education Reduced the Human Identity

Perry L. Glanzer


Paperback: 230 pages
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publisher
Publish Date: February 20, 2022
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1475864957
ISBN-13: 978-1475864953

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.

As the war of identities raged, its effects spilled out beyond the bounds of the curriculum into the co-curricular dimension that struggled with moving beyond being en loco parentis. The major identity they cultivated was that of being a political citizen. Thus, the major identity and story of students’ lives became the American political story of democracy—what I call Meta-Democracy. In higher education guided by Meta-Democracy, students lose their autonomy to administrators who reduce the student identities they try to develop along with the range of virtues that comprise the good life. The Dismantling of Moral Education: How Higher Education Reduced the Human Identity explains why and how we arrived at diminishing ourselves.


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




Part I. Discarding Christian Metaphysics and Its Consequences

Chapter 1. Christian vs. Aristotelian Ethics (1569 to 1765)

Chapter 2. The Rise and Fall of America’s Collegiate Conscience: Learning to Ignore the Identity War inside Us (1596-Present)

Chapter 3. How Virtue Lost Its Humanity: The Fragmentation of the Human Function (1768-1980)

Part II. The Moral Retreat to Identity Fragments

Chapter 4. The Death of Ladies and Gentlemen (1673-Present)

Chapter 5. The End of Honor: The Thin Attempts to Support Academic Honesty (1842-Present)

Chapter 6. The Professionalization of Ethics: The Faculty Retreat from Extra-Professional Moral Education (1892-Present)

Part III. The Co-Curricular Takeover and the Rise of Meta-Democracy

Chapter 7. Administrators Take Back Moral Control of the Co-Curricular: Reasserting In Loco Parentis (1890-1961)

Chapter 8. Developing Autonomous Choosers for Democracy: The Political and Psychological Turn in Co-Curricular Moral Education (1949-Present)

Chapter 9. Real Life under Totalitarians: The Meta-Democratic Effort to Control Students’ Civil Society (1980-Present)

Chapter 10. How to Undermine Social Justice: Reductionistic Moral Education (1970s to Present)




About the Author


Perry L. Glanzer offers a well-informed interpretation of how mainstream American universities have arrived at an era when they are unable to offer meaningful moral education that allows room for diversities of communities and viewpoints.

— George Marsden
Professor Emeritus, University of Notre Dame

This book sheds welcome light on buzz words prominent in contemporary debates over the ethical purposes of the American university: “citizenship,” “virtue,” “diversity,” “empowerment,” “democracy,” “social justice,” and more. A broad historical perspective, searching engagement with influential theorists, and trenchant reflection on current controversies make The Dismantling of Moral Education a must-read for any who believe that higher education should do more than just prepare for the first job.

— Mark Noll
Francis A. McAnaney Professor Emeritus of History, University of Notre Dame

Glanzer draws on the history of higher education to trace and then evaluate the changing approaches to moral education at American colleges and universities. He makes a compelling argument that most attempts to form students’ moral commitments in a way appropriate to our pluralistic society have suffered from reducing students to only one of their many identities. Educational practitioners hailing from a range of ethical and religious commitments will benefit from wrestling with his critiques of common approaches as they seek to help students grow into people who will navigate our fractious culture responsibly.

— Andrea L. Turpin
Author, “A New Moral Vision: Gender, Religion, and the
Changing Purposes of American Higher Education, 1837–1917”

This is the book that I wish that I and my academic colleagues would have read before getting into all of those “curriculum review” and “educational mission” discussions that have taken up so much time in my career. And that wish takes on an urgency these days as we engage in the campus battles that result when we ignore the crucial questions that Perry L. Glanzer explores here with such care. He points the way with clarity: we need to return to insights from the past that draw on a profound sense of our identities, grounded in our richly created natures.

— Richard J. Mouw
President Emeritus, Fuller Theological Seminary

The Dismantling of Moral Education: How Higher Education Reduced the Human Identity helps us understand the DNA of American university education and America itself in new ways. Perry L. Glanzer has made a seminal scholarly contribution that is genuinely enlightening.

— Mark Pike
Professor of Education, University of Leeds