The Capstone Creedless

I’ve taken several hundred tests in my lifetime, as we all have. I’ve also seen people cheat on tests hundreds of times, as you have seen too. The immense pressure to excel academically in hopes of possibly ensuring future security in life can strip any person of honesty, character and integrity. The academic example of cheating is just emblematic of a greater, less discussed problem on our campus and in our society: a lack of character and honesty. It’s not our fault that the world in which we were raised all too often chooses to recognize and reward success at any cost and embraces laws favoring a select few and impairing the rest. This perpetuates wealth inequality, reduces opportunities for upward economic mobility and engenders undeserved biases based on factors beyond our control. It is still our responsibility, however, to develop a sense of character and recognize the importance of honesty.

The 
education of the past determines the social norms and ethics of the present. Therefore, present education will dictate the societal ethics and norms of the future. That all hinges on the idea of an education, especially higher education, teaching some sense of morality and character – this was the core purpose of education in the early 20th century. But that belief in moral education is losing its luster in the 21st century in favor of cognitive and job-oriented education. What is ultimately being left out of the classroom, moral education, is not being replaced by a sufficient culture on campus based on a set of shared beliefs and values.

The caveat is that there does exist a written creed about how we, as members of The University of Alabama community, should behave and act. The mere existence of a creed is the foundation on which a campus culture should be built. It’s called the Capstone Creed and is about as memorized as our Alma Mater. The problem, however, with building upon the existing creed is that the only place you can find it gilded, framed and hung up for all to see is in Bidgood Hall, a business school building. I know of few other spots on campus that have the Capstone Creed posted. A sufficient and palpable campus culture of character and honesty simply cannot depend on business students spreading the Capstone Creed to other pockets of campus.

The promotion of the Capstone Creed across campus in academic buildings and residence halls will change daily life for students. A set of shared beliefs and values in writing, like those found in religious texts and in various professions, remind us all how to behave, act and interact with others. Research shows that when we are asked to recall a creed, commandment or set of principles related to ethics, we automatically act to a higher level of behavior and character, even if we fail to recite a single line or word of it. Indeed, we all act in our own idiosyncratic ways to gain the esteem and favor of our neighbors, teachers, family and the people surrounding us. But the esteem and favor doled out by those around us should be based on some benchmark of appropriate actions and behaviors like those found in the Capstone Creed. If we desire a campus and a future world where character, integrity and honesty are valued and cherished, the Capstone Creed needs greater outreach, re-emphasized importance and a place on every wall 
on campus.

Patrick Crowley is a senior majoring mathematics, finance and economics. He is the opinions editor of The Crimson White.

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