Discussion on Character; The 3 V’s

7-dangers-to-human-virtueThis may be very vain on my part, but when I am pleased with something I’ve written, I like to share it. The following are my responses to a discussion that’s part of a class I’m taking this Summer on Character Education. I’ve annotated it just a tad for this blog with additional comments which are italicized.

Differences between views, values and virtues.

I suspect that many teachers hope to engage students by having them explore and share views in class discussions. Politicians, parents and interest groups often want their values propagated in schools while vehemently opposing having students indoctrinated with “wrong” values. Unfortunately, I think all too often school districts and teachers have avoided instilling students with virtues because they mistakenly conflate them with “religious” values and therefore want to avoid controversy from the aforementioned parents and interest groups. The result has been a diminishing amount of virtues necessary for lifelong learning such as curiosity, persistence, courage and a general work-ethic. Not to mention virtues necessary for promoting a culture and climate safe for learning like compassion, empathy, and community.

Views may be perspective or paradigm. They determine how we perceive things and react to them. These are very subjective and personal.

Values are influenced by views. Values are what we deem important and are greatly determined by our culture, family, personal life experiences and the institutions we belong to. While they may be deeper, more stable and more widely shared than our views, they’re still very subjective. Like views, they aren’t necessarily constructive or productive, instead, they are constructed and produced. They are things we think we need to defend or stand up for, rather than things that help us to grow or progress.

A good synonym for Virtues might be disciplines because virtues aren’t just concepts you believe in like values, they are principles which you can proactively use to help determine your decisions, choices, and behaviors. They can help you pre-plan your reactions to potential scenarios. They also effect how others perceive you and present a “brand” or “stance” you hope to portray.

How they relate, or do not relate, to educational success, living well, mastering 21st Century Skills

Being virtuous involves intellectual authenticity. Virtues are active processes. Angela Maiers might argue that they are taking positive attitudes toward learning and developing them into habits that help you learn. Carol Dweck might say that they being virtuous is being willing to work and grow, no matter how often you fail. William Glasser might say its the difference between being responsible and irresponsible, or between being negative and reactive or being positive and proactive. Civic, financial, and technological literacy and being healthy and employable all demand that students be actively engaged and deliberate and committed and disciplined, rather than passively receiving information or being entertained.

Views and values certainly have a place in learning. They’re useful for exposing students to the marketplace of ideas and to exploring you own feelings and ideas, but without virtues, they may be somewhat superficial or reactionary at best and inflammatory at worst.

Creating a foundation of deeper meaning.

Woodrow Wilson once said, ” When I think of the flag…. I see alternate strips of parchment upon which are written the rights of liberty and justice, and stripes of blood to vindicate those rights, and then, in the corner, a prediction of the blue serene into which every nation may swim which stands for these great things.”

It’s not just a matter of “being deep” or having poetry in one’s soul. It is a matter of comprehension and application; being able to genuinely understand learning and proactively, deliberately apply it, rather than just casually being exposed to, passively acknowledging it or emotionally reacting to it.

At the risk of sounding too much like a Social Studies teacher- it’s the difference between hearing the Gettysburg Address as “yadda yadda yadda, blah blah, blah… of the people, by the people, for the people, etc. etc.” and hearing it and thinking, “wow, how dedicated and committed am I (are we) to the unfinished work which they so nobly advanced there 150 years ago? How can I (we) dedicate myself (ourselves) to the principles of equality and liberty so that those who gave their last full measure of devotion might not have died in vain?” That’s how important I think that virtues are to creating meaning in one’s life.

Views are how we respond to circumstances. Values are what we’ve been raised to think of as important and worth defending. But virtue provides us with purpose and direction. I think both Victor Frankl and Rick Warren could agree on this.

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