Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


David T. Humphries

Subject Categories

American Studies | Education


activism; citizenship; education; ethics; justice


In adolescence, purpose, integrity, and wonder come to life. It is of paramount importance that ethics-in-action be taught in our high schools. There is a need for a broader vision of the purpose of education beyond instrumental uses, specifically beyond preparing young people only for the work force. In the twenty-first century, we are educating laborers, homo economicus, and not whole persons, homo sapiens. Does this mentality negate the heart, psyche, dignity, feelings, awe, and creativity of one's humanity? Likewise, does it negate one's ethical responsibility to their fellow human and to the natural world? Who has the right to define what is meant by a "whole person," and what role does ethics and ethical curriculum play in formulating such a definition and in educating "whole persons?" Certainly, the issue of what is meant by "whole persons" can be controversial and even divisive. Can ethics-in-action be taught in the public sector? If so, what role can an ethics-in-action curriculum play in countering such mentalities?

I am proposing that educators and administrators teach compassion, creativity, and solidarity within the classroom, ask existential questions, create answers through the arts, coordinate service immersion trips, mentor students on what it means to be human, all the while advocating for emerging issues that young people themselves find vital. I am often reminded how identity shapes one's pursuit of knowledge and engagement with the world-at-large. Thus, I will focus on the breadth of identity, including culture, and how students can bring their values, attitude, and beliefs into their lived experience, in a word, action. This curriculum has the potential to awaken young people and teachers alike to embody joie de vivre and justice in a world in dire need of both.

This thesis will provide relevant background information about these issues; provide examples of ethics-in-action curricula to show how these issues can be engaged; offer an outline for possible paths forward to make education a site of fulfillment and transformation rather than the status quo.