Moral Courage: Not Taught at Harvard

  Harvard doesn’t teach moral courage. It can’t––at least not without breaking its model. No university can. Like anything else you might want to learn, to master moral courage, you have to practice doing it, and universities have no mechanism for this. A university can teach you to master reading or writing or even discounted cash-flow analysis. You’ll read some theory, maybe get a lecture, then be forced to do lots and lots of practice. And it’s through practice that you will develop mastery. When a university like Harvard claims to “teach” moral courage, what they really mean is that they tell students about the subject without forcing or even giving them an opportunity to practice it. Imagine if Harvard offered a lecture-only course on how to read, then claimed they actually taught reading. They would be laughed at. When Harvard Business Schools says they teach students moral courage and that, as my friend Michelle claims, that moral courage is *central* to the curriculum, it is only at this most superficial, shallow level of teaching. Traditional schools––Harvard is not alone––are unable to teach moral courage in a meaningful way. They might talk about it and expose it’s existence to them, but they don’t actually teach it to students Teaching requires practice, and schools have no good mechanism for this. They could change this. They should change this. But I’m afraid they probably see it as out-of-scope for their institution. To teach moral courage to the elite, now that would be a radical change.

Also published on Medium.