Gilbert Meilander at First Things discusses a book by noted academic Stanley Fish titled Save the World on Your Own Time. In the book Fish argues that the attempts by teachers and college professors to make students into "good people" is misguided and in any event impossible:
...the book's entire polemical edge (and the point of its central second chapter, titled "Do Your Job") depends on the assumption that many college and university teachers are all too eager to use their classrooms for "partisan purposes." Rather than taking up ideas and arguments as objects for analysis, they offer them as "candidates for allegiance." Rather than doing what academics are trained to do-"passing on knowledge and conferring skills"-they commit themselves (with the full support of broad claims in the mission statements of their institutions) to turning students into people who are sensitive, tolerant, creative, and good (though, of course, globally minded) citizens.
In short, they seem to be in the business of offering a "character transplant" to students who thought they had "signed on for something more modest, to wit, a course of instruction."
What we can do in the classroom is, roughly, what Fish says we can (and should) attempt: impart knowledge and develop skills needed to analyze ideas. We can give training in critical reflection about how different individuals and traditions have proposed that we should live. We can, on our good days or good semesters, produce students who think more clearly, critically, and reflectively about such questions. And, if we've really done well, we may even produce students who realize that critical thought is by no means the whole of the moral life. It is what can be done in the classroom, what a college professor might be trained to do if he attempts not to save the world but to do his job.
If you're a teacher, or hoping to be a teacher, or have a child who is a student, this would be a good essay to read in its entirety.RLC