Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Joint Research Project with A&M-Kingsville Faculty Looks at American, International College Student Values

KINGSVILLE - June 21, 2007

Contact: Jason Marton
kajam03@tamuk.edu or 361-593-4143

Selection of results to be presented at national symposium June 22-24

Twenty years ago, Dr. Jim Norwine, Regents professor in geography at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, began noticing what he thought were interesting changes in the attitudes and outlooks of his students.

Emotions and personal feelings seemed to be having the strongest impact in the way students saw the world. They seemed to be moved more by personal experiences rather than traditional ideas, facts and beliefs. Norwine decided to examine this thought further, and began a multi-part study of college student values that started in Texas before moving through the United States and beyond.

Since 1990, more than 5,000 students of public and private colleges and universities have been surveyed on themes like family, happiness, relationships, self-identification and the environment.

The survey work started with some 1,600 undergraduates at three public universities in Texas. After that, students were surveyed at secular and church-affiliated colleges and universities in the United States, and internationally in Australia, Canada, Chile, Gaza (Palestine), South Korea and Wales.

Other faculty would join Norwine in his endeavor, including A&M-Kingsville professor of management and marketing Dr. Allen F. Ketcham; Dr. Michael Preda, professor of political science at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls; and Dr. Michael Bruner, professor of communications at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif.

The surveys showed that students in Texas and internationally were in agreement on a number of issues. Eighty percent or more of students from Texas and internationally agreed, among other questions, that:

  • Technology is good
  • Family is the most important thing to me
  • I am more hopeful about the future than despairing
  • Ultimately, each person is responsible for him/herself

In addition, Texas/international percentages were nearly identical in answering “agree/strongly agree” to the statement, “Happiness is whatever makes me feel good,” (69% Texas, 68% international) and “My opinion is as valid as an authority’s” (68% Texas, 69% international).

There were some interesting differences in responses as well. More traditional worldviews could be seen in students from church-affiliated schools as opposed to secular schools. This can be seen in answers to the statement, “(Sex before) marriage is morally wrong.” Eighty-eight percent of students from Colorado Christian College agreed with that statement, while only 39 percent of students at secular Grambling State University agreed.

Palestinian students of the College of Science and Technology at Gaza tended to have the most traditional worldview of those surveyed. One hundred percent of their students agreed with the statement, “Live free or die is a motto that I accept,” only 16 percent agreed that, “My ideas are as good as an authority’s” and 100 percent said that they would be willing to die for their country.

Norwine concluded that research results up to now show that traditional values have not gone away but are alive and well in all the students surveyed, particularly the Palestinian students of Gaza. The rest of the students surveyed, with the exception of those from Gaza, also believe in modern values like self-expression, and postmodern themes that celebrate personal choice and a radical equality of all ideas and values.

“This project has, since 1990, forced me to become conversant in what is one of the more obscure yet fascinating branches of geography, geosophy,” said Norwine, who defines the word, in part, as the study of the world as people conceive of and imagine it.

“This exploration has helped me put in perspective my own values and world views as well as those of college students.”

Norwine was invited to share his research findings at the Association of American Geographers Symposium on Geography and the Humanities June 22-24 at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. More than 70 artists, authors, architects and geographers will present work that applies geographic concepts and tools to traditional humanities subjects.

“Being invited to the symposium was a real thrill and professional highlight,” said Norwine.

Norwine and his colleagues have continued their study of student worldviews and values. Since last year, they have surveyed students at select American colleges and universities, along with students in Malaysia and Ulster, on the theme of religious diversity. This phase of the study hopes to better understand if exposure to contrasting religions and religious believers has enriched the students’ personal faith and democracy, or are they leading to the undoing of one or both.

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