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Intellectual Virtues and Education


This blog is part of a series of reflections based on Philip Dow's book Virtuous Minds*


Martin Luther King Jr said that “Intelligence plus character- that is the goal of true education” (p125 Virtuous Minds*).


What an amazing opportunity schools have, to build into the men and women of tomorrow. To speak into their character development and to equip them with the skills and tools to think and to contribute. To hold out to them the existence of ‘truth’, and training in the tools to pursue and find it. At a time when our culture is moving quickly towards uncertainty and relativity, a place where there is no one truth, but many truths, we have a great responsibility.


Thomas Jefferson saw the danger walking away from our responsibility in this pursuit when he said "all tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”


We can be this voice in our spheres of influence, in our schools. This is a small beginning but as Edmund Burke reminds us it would be a great mistake to do nothing because we can only do a little.


Dow gives us seven suggestions:

  1. Begin with the end in mind, including the type of person you are trying to produce – then you need a comprehensive reassessment of the school’s curriculum in the light of intellectual character (p126-127)
  2. Start children off on the way they should go Prov. 22:6 (p128)
  3. Keep the principle of intellectual character at the front of the students' minds (p129)
  4. Talk the talk – build a common language (p130)
  5. Teach and model effective thinking routines in the context of the pursuit of truth. (p132)
  6. Don’t be afraid of a few carrots – we all need encouragement (p135)
  7. Walk the walk and give feedback that genuinely stimulates our students (p138)


As we strive to build not only moral character but intellectual character in our students, the process will not only demand more of them, but also of ourselves. Our very core should be transformed as the character of our minds are also transformed.


Philip Dow will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming Christians in Teaching Conference in April.


Can we encourage you to delve into his award winning book Virtuous Minds*, be challenged by his call to pursue truth and to build intellectual virtues in your students, and join us for the upcoming Christians in Teaching Conference. 


*Dow, Philip E. 2013. "Virtuous Minds: Intellectual Character Development". Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press

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