Book by Sherry L. Hoppe and Bruce W. Speck
Review by Jessamy Hoffmann
Office of Academic Services
University of Mary Washington

The original mission of higher education included the conveyance of moral and community values, ensuring that these values survived from one generation to the next. There existed “the belief that the university acted in loco parentis in assuming the duties and responsibilities of the parent in continuing to shape the intellectual and spiritual formation of the student” (p. 26). Over time, there has been a shift in this mission. Spirituality in higher education has changed from “a way of knowing and as a means of interpretation…” (p. 24) to a taboo subject, swept into a corner in favor of the big business of science and technology. Is this appropriate? This collection of essays addresses the subject of spirituality and its place in higher education.

Gilley cites a 2003 Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) study that revealed that over 75% of students are searching for meaning or are discussing spirituality. Buttery and Roberson posit that behavior such as drug and alcohol use and reckless sexual practices are the result of student attempts to fill an inner emptiness. However, the result of the disappearance of spirituality from the classroom is that educators are not personally prepared and legally educated to handle such issues or questions. Lowery’s reviews of court cases regarding the issue reveal that it is legally acceptable to discuss spirituality and religion in higher education, but the courts have not made it clear whether educators may discuss their personal views.

Sikula and Sikula comment on one way to return spirituality to the curriculum. They believe that service learning, as a means of serving others, has a religious basis in the Golden Rule. The spiritual nature of the activity provides an opportunity for students to find a “calling”. Through the experience and the potential epiphany of the calling, students take part in introspection and meaning making. Therefore, the addition of spirituality to the curriculum is also one of reflection.

Capeheart-Meningall looks beyond the classroom to the work place and argues that spirituality is just as important there. A spiritual leader is one who promotes the common good and creates bridges between people. Such leaders have a calling in their focus on others, which inspires employees. Such an atmosphere eliminates the “risk of work becoming just the opportunity to make a living rather than opening the possibilities for making a difference” (p. 86).

As academic and student affairs partner to foster development throughout the  academy, it makes sense to include spiritual development. Not only does this prepare one for a more meaningful work experience, it is part of preparation for life in general. Spirituality can be a viable way of knowing and translating information, a lens through which one filters the world.

In conclusion, I agree that academia should focus attention on this form of development, and that we as educators need to examine our own values and make efforts to help our students examine theirs. Just as we are open to different learning styles, we should be open to different lenses through which a student may view knowledge. I found this to be a very interesting collection of essays on a topic that often goes unaddressed. Advisors with  time to do some close reading and thinking will find that , this book helps to jump start their  own introspection as it provides ideas about ways in which development may be encouraged in students.

Spirituality in Higher Education. (2005). Book by Sherry L. Hoppe and Bruce W. Speck (Eds). Review by Jessamy Hoffmann. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 108 pp.  Price $29.00. ISBN #  0-7879-8363-2
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