It’s simple. If understanding, imagination, strength, courage, humility, and generosity are the six virtues of the educated person, teachers should model them and schools should teach them. If they’re not, my book is worthless.
The six virtues define what it means to be educated for three reasons:
1. Everybody should develop virtues. It’s the meaning of the word. That’s why, in order for a virtue list to be useful, it must answer, “Why these and not others?” Otherwise, it tells us what we already know — Here are some virtues. People should develop them.
2. Everybody should develop these six virtues because they are the ingredients of all others. Making a cake is an apt metaphor. You can have flour, salt, milk, and eggs without a cake, but you cannot have a cake without flour, salt, milk and eggs. Similarly, as an example, you can have understanding, imagination, and strength without patience, but you cannot have virtuous patience without understanding, imagination, and strength. All virtues are combinations of these six.
The six virtues are an intellectual pair, a character pair, and a spiritual pair because intellect, character, and spirit distinguish us from other animals. The first of each pair is a virtuous capacity, the second is a virtuous capability.
- Intellectual capacity –> Understanding
- Intellectual capability –>Imaginative actions
- Character capacity –> Strength
- Character capability –> Courageous actions
- Spiritual capacity –> Humility
- Spiritual capability –> Generous actions
(3) The final reason these virtues define the educated person is that we learn by bringing understanding, imagination, strength and courage to situations; and we fail to learn when we don’t. And all of us have had humble, generous teachers who inspired us; and proud, self-indulgent ones who didn’t.
Let’s look at those experiences with teachers. The six-virtues also define the excellent teacher. Whether in the role of classroom instructor, parent, coach, or advisor; excellent teachers model the six virtues. Think of your own good teachers. Were they understanding or ignorant, imaginative or unimaginative, strong or weak, courageous or fearful of truth, proud or humble, selfish or generous?
Or pretend you are programming a robot to be the best possible teacher. Which virtue would you leave out? Which other virtue would you add?
The quality of our schools depends on what we mean by “educated.” If it means “good at tests,” we will graduate citizens who are good at tests. If it means understanding, imaginative, strong, courageous, humble, and generous, we will graduate citizens with these virtues. Which kind of citizens do you want to live with?
Or read and comment on blogs. Peruse blogs by picking a category and scrolling down to check the headlines.