Character Education

We read the scriptures everyday and discuss the principles of our religion and how they relate to everyday life.  Aside from that, we study the Core Virtues.

The Core Virtues

These definitions give a good starting place for gaining an understanding of the virtues, but you will find as you read and explore that each virtue encompasses much more than a simple definition.
Prudence: The knowledge to judge between virtue and vice
Justice: Fairness.  All receive their due, but not all the same
Temperance: Moderation in thought, feeling, and action
Fortitude: Courage. The ability to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation
Faith: Faith in God, trust in God
Hope: Hope for the best in yourself and others
Charity: The pure love of Christ
 
 
I'm working on a page for each of the virtues. 

 
Why study the Core Virtues?
 

The Core Virtues are the seven virtues from which every other virtue branches off. The first four: Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude, are the Classical, or Cardinal Virtues, set apart in antiquity by philosophers. The last three: Faith, Hope, and Charity, are the Christian Virtues, added to the first four through the teachings of Christ. Many people through the ages of humanity have been inspired in their thoughts and writings on the virtues, giving us literally shoulders of giants to stand upon if we wish.

 

Virtue is taught in many religions, and families, too, often offer great support to the individual in making life choices, and I have no wish to downplay that importance. On the contrary, the fact that churches and faithful families of all kinds provide the majority of all existing character education, the good in our society obviously owes itself to them. What I wish to address here is the formal teaching of virtue, specifically in school.

 

For a long time, teaching these virtues were just as important in public education as reading, writing, and arithmetic. The philosophy behind this was character education. If a person did not know how to act with integrity and lead a good life, than the ability to do the mechanics mattered little. Unfortunately, the schools stopped teaching the virtues as the tolerance movement began in earnest in the 1960's. I find this rather ironic, as a knowledge of the virtues would lead a person to be respectful and kind to people of all faiths and backgrounds, but they were considered stifling and so done away with. The result was disappointing to say the least. Society's problems climbed, and schools began to back step, trying to teach character education without the virtues. After several attempts, many realized this would not work, and finally in the 1990's virtue made a tiny comeback. In one of the high schools I attended, they had a 'Character Trait of the Month', which consisted of a new sign being hung up somewhere that everyone walked by and no one read. Character education, despite a timid attempt at being reintroduced in schools, remains a subject that if not taught in the home, is not taught at all. (If you would like a more in-depth look at this bit of history, I suggest reading the first part of the book Cultivating Heart and Character: Educating for Life's Most Essential Goals by Tony Devine et al.)

 

Along with the disappearance and slight reemergence of character education in schools, the subjects of history and literature have all but disappeared as well. The study of history and literature do not lend themselves to the highly competitive job market. Schools focus their educational pursuits, not to the education of the character, but to the preparation for a job. Not to say that isn't important, but without an understanding of the virtues, life choices can become even more difficult than they often already are. Without virtue, people have no other alternative than to rely upon human nature, which sometimes leads true, but just as often leads astray. History and literature, aside from their obvious contributions to human knowledge, also provide a wonderful arena for the discovery, exploration, and dissection, of the virtues. Jesus Christ taught in parables because many times ideas become more real to the human mind in the context of a story. Whether that story is true (history) or fictional (literature) there is a wealth of writing available to us from the farthest reaches of the globe and time. Classics are set apart, most often because they have something of worth to say about human nature and virtue.

 

In our family, we try to make the virtues a part of our everyday life. We discuss the virtues; pick them out of books and movies, and apply them to our everyday decisions. When one of our children make a bad choice, like talking back or hitting, or a good choice, like sharing or being calm in a frustrating situation, we discuss what virtue was or was not applied. My goal is to make our children completely familiar with these virtues so that whenever they make a decision in life, be it large or small, their first resource is these virtues.

 
  
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