Everyone who graduates from Principia college must take Moral Reasoning. It is usually done their sophomore year, and usually done by the Resident Councilor of the dorm they reside in.
Like a number of things at Principia (and in Christian Science in general) the details are kept from the uninitiated, the process is shrouded in secrecy: there are those who have taken Moral Reasoning and there are those who have not. I have heard it likened to CS Class Instruction in that you simply don’t discuss what happens.
On one hand, the notion that “everything said here stays here” can be helpful in getting students to open up and “confess” their sins, in some cases this even leads to carefully overseen discussions. I agree, there is no need to freely spread the private lives of students around the campus (although it happens anyway and speculation is often fueled by the RCs who oversee Moral Reasoning), but the notion that discussions of how we discuss and interpret morality should remain private (and limited to the course of the seminar) is problematic.
Principia College prides itself in teaching morals and character education, and I think we need to examine what exactly that entails. The Goals of the Moral Reasoning Seminar are as follows:
- To explore the usefulness and limits of moral reasoning as one tool to serve decision-making as a Christian Scientist.
- To deepen understanding of morality and sharpen ability to make moral choices
- To contribute to the College’s fulfillment of Principia’s policies 6 and 12.
My inner cynic feels it is a form of groupthink as questioning the process (or any of the Office of Student Life policies) is frowned upon and the seminar is a graduation requirement.
I confess, I was rather lax about my Moral Reasoning Seminar, I showed up, I “contributed” and I dutifully collected all the handouts. There were no life-altering discussions, earth-shattering secrets, or much else. My group mostly sat in our RC’s living room and stared at each other, too shy to speak, too timid to rock the boat, and too smart to openly question OSL’s policies with any doubts we may have had. It was awkward at best.
There were two ways Moral Reasoning could be done, 3-4 intense days before the start of/after the end of a quarter OR over several weeks (4-5) through out the quarter in the afternoon/evenings for an arbitrarily preset total number of hours. I didn’t want to spend any more time on campus than I had to, so I opted for during-the-quarter.
It was my RC’s first Moral Reasoning Seminar, so she relied heavily on handouts from others (mostly the Office of Student Life). I’m not sure if her style improved any. She was a nice person, but I always got the feeling that being an RC wasn’t the best fit, she has since moved on.
I recently came across a binder full of Christian Science articles, printouts, photocopies and notes from my Moral Reasoning seminar, so there are likely to be a few posts tagged moral reasoning coming along in the next month or so as I go over the ream of papers that I mostly ignored the first time around.
Up until my rediscovery of the papers I couldn’t have told you what the point of Moral Reasoning was. It turns out that the
Purpose of Moral Reasoning: to evaluate whether one, in fact, is being moral (and hence preserving the health, happiness, success and progress of the individual and society). From the OSL Moral Reasoning Seminar handout Revised 12/97
Do I feel Moral Reasoning helped me to become a more “moral” person? No. If any thing how morality was practiced at Principia was detrimental to my health (people facing health a crisis should not fear repercussions for choosing a medical route over a CS one, it is not a “moral” issue, nor should it be made into one), and had little influence on my happiness, success and progress.