The “values” aspect of the Project on Purpose And Values in Education (PAVE) bears some explanation. Values have been conceptualized as personal principles that guide us and our actions. Individuals may turn to their values when they are uncertain about what to do or when faced with a difficult situation. Institutions may do the same. Though institutions certainly have discrete purposes and different missions, it is the rare institution that is value-free. The values that guide individuals and institutions reflect our diversity insofar as the inspiration for these values may come from family, culture, faith, the law, and beyond.
First, and foremost, it is important to know that PAVE does not endorse any one particular set of values. The only one principle that is heavily promoted is the notion that being reflective is worthwhile. The goal of PAVE is to get students to consider their own values. One may cite honesty and compassion while another will claim influence and equality. Regardless, college students should be asked:
- What are values? What are my values? And, why?
- Where did my values come from?
- How do my current commitments reflect my values?
- How have my values changed? How might they change in the future?
Taking time to think about values, outside of a crisis or decision-making moment, should lead to greater self-awareness and what could be called personal transformation. This website attempts to offer resources and best practices to promote that reflection on values and purpose.
Most colleges, at least those that prioritize diversity, tend to provide students with an intellectual and social environment that is like none other they will experience in life. The exchange of new ideas, the freedom to explore and question, and the chance to interact meaningfully with different people, may all have an effect on individuals’ values. Synthesizing these experiences by asking students to make meaning of them, may lead students to shift their values over time. While shifting values may be initially concerning for parents or families, these shifts are also a positive sign of education and maturity.
Finally, asking students to consider their values is critical because this ties directly to the social and moral responsibilities of non-profit higher education. These responsibilities are given to us by the States or by our own charters and typically relate to advancing the common good and well-being of society. In a democracy, advancing the common good is achieved through an educated and involved citizenry. Citizens draw upon their knowledge, experience, and values to vote and make decisions about how to solve problems and make their communities better. Unless colleges secure and promote time dedicated directly to defining values, students may be less-well prepared for the roles of citizen and citizen leaders.