Intellectuals wrong on intellectual virtues

In a Chronicle of Higher Education article, Colleges Should Teach Intellectual Virtues two Swarthmore professors say colleges and universities should teach five intellectual virtues: (1) Love of truth, (2) Honesty, (3) Courage, (4) Fairness and (5) Wisdom.

As explained in TSVOTEP, virtue lists are helpful when they are conceptually consistent, comprehensive and concise.  And, as explained elsewhere, the value of every virtue list is in the answer to: “Why these virtues and not others?”  If that isn’t answered we are looking at a random set of virtues, which is not helpful because we already know people should develop virtue.  It’s the meaning of the word.

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We hold opposite beliefs

My colleagues agree that we should define what it means to be educated, and then they ignore the question. When I ask why they don’t do the philosophical thinking needed to define “educated,” I find that we hold opposite beliefs. I believe a universal definition is right in front of us. They believe there is no such thing.

Let’s examine both beliefs, starting with theirs.

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Hitchens should read TSVOTEP

At the 8:50 mark of his 60 Minutes interview, Christopher Hitchens (March 6, 2011) said, “If I could change just one thing, it would be to dissociate the idea of faith from virtue.”

Hitchens wants people to be virtuous but not religious because he regards virtue as good, and religion as the source of all tyranny. He believes three things about our virtue discourse:

1. People associate being virtuous with being religious.
2. Nothing could be further from the truth.
3. Belief #2 never gets through because of Belief #1.

Somebody should tell Hitchens The Six Virtues of the Educated Person “dissociates the idea of faith from virtue.” My book describes a virtue definition of “educated” that has nothing to do with religious faith. If these virtues were religious, they could not be an inspiring, useful definition of the educated person for American public schools.

Somebody should tell him soon. He has stage 4 cancer.

Do you want simple or complicated? Part 1 of 2

Is improving schools simple or complicated? According to an LA Times article, it’s complicated. Here is the headline: “In reforming schools, quality of teaching often overlooked.” Here is the link:,0,4340403.story?page=1

The article illustrates how the social science paradigm complicates educational improvement. It says turning around a failing school requires, among other things, hiring the right principal and teachers with the right value-added scores. Is it really that complicated? Let’s look at the article’s description of Edwin Markham Middle School (EMMS).

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Do you want simple or complicated? Part 2 of 2

Should K-12 educators teach the dispositions needed to be successful in college? Of course they should. Is this simple or complicated? According to an Education Week article, it’s complicated. Here is the headline: “Experts begin to identify nonacademic skills key to success.”

Here is the link:

Once again, the social science paradigm complicates what is simple.

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The Failed Experiments of American Public Education

In a recent Learning for Democracy essay I argued that the following American public education experiments have failed:

(1) providing equal educational opportunity via democratically elected governors at the local and state levels,
(2) improving education via the social science improvement paradigm.

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Mind/Shift ‘School of One,’ or the 6 Virtues approach?

I have nothing against technology. In fact I love it — XM radio, on-demand television, cell phones, laptop computers, YouTube clips, etc. Besides, here I am, blogging on the internet.

What I hate is that we never challenge the assumption that advanced technologies are a key to improving education. This blog challenges that assumption by asking teachers one question:

Which initiative is more likely to lead to an educated citizenry: the Mind/Shift “School of One” initiative, or modeling and teaching the six virtues of the educated person?
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Public school ignorance that has nothing to do with test scores

I attended Catholic schools, and so did Chris Matthews, the host of MSNBC’s Hardball. Last night, I saw what happens when a person who knows nothing about American public education talks about its failings. Continue reading →

Dear Bill Gates:

Gates Foundation Crap

Last week’s big news came from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is investing $335 million to overhaul the personnel departments of several big school systems. A large portion of the Gates’s investment will finance research by dozens of social scientists and thousands of teachers to develop a better system for evaluating classroom instruction.

Educators and researchers will analyze thousands of hours of videotaped lessons to identify attributes of good teaching and possible correlations between certain teaching practices and high student achievement, as measured by value-added scores, the New York Times reports. The effort aims not just to evaluate teachers on multiple measures of effectiveness (the NYT article lists value-added measures as a starting point), but also to help teachers improve by learning from talented colleagues.

Cut the Crap

Dear Bill,

I don’t need a single dollar, a single hour of videotape, or a single study of good teaching “to identify attributes of good teaching and possible correlations between certain teaching practices and high student achievement.”

All good teachers model and teach understanding, imagination, strong character, courage, humility and generosity. They always have and they always will. You don’t know this by now?

It’s a shame your Foundation has all this money and so little imagination about how to spend it. Your imagination was the key to making money, but it seems absent from your attempts to improve education. I love irony.

If you want to know what makes a good teacher, ask your wife. And then listen to her descriptions of how her best teachers modeled and taught imagination, courage, and humility, in addition to the understanding, strong character and generosity that others modeled and taught. Better yet, ask your children to describe their best teachers. Then maybe you won’t waste your money.

Americans believe philosophy is not useful, so it is difficult for you to see that a deep, useful definition of what it means to be educated holds the answer to all your questions about improving education. I  love irony.

Casey Hurley, Educational Philosopher


Stanford scholars are to blame

The headline reads “Adults Blame Parents for Education Problems.”

Education Study Crap

Here is a quote from the article:

An Associated Press-Stanford University Poll on education found that 68 percent of adults believe parents deserve heavy blame for what’s wrong with the U.S. education system — more than teachers, administrators, the government or teachers unions.

Cut the Crap

I don’t care about the findings of this study, but I love the irony of a university asking who is to blame for the poor state of American education. Who is to blame? Anybody who does not know the six virtues of the educated person is to blame. The irony is that Americans can’t learn and develop the virtues, if education scholars don’t model and teach them. Apparently they don’t at Stanford, which is supposed to be one of our premier universities.

If Stanford scholars knew the six virtues of the educated person, they wouldn’t conduct a study that demonstrates their (1) intellectual incompetence, (2) fear of truth, and (3) pride. The study illustrates that they (1) lack the imagination needed to question the social science improvement paradigm, (2) fear the truth they would find, and (3) are so proud that they can’t see the answer to their own question:

Especially education scholars are to blame for the poor state of American education.” I love irony?