Around the world educators and philanthropists, for a multiplicity of reasons, seem to be taking a fresh interest in devoting time and resources to what is variously called ‘character development,’ ‘character education’ or ‘positive psychology.’ In the United Kingdom, the wealthy businessman, Sir John Templeton has declared that character, and specifically its neglect, is the number one issue of our age. A society that is not grounded in deep values, that doesn’t know who are its heroes and which lacks commitment to the common good, is one that is failing. Such we have become.’
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.
“Our intellectual character influences our lives just as moral character does, and with at least as much force…… In a very real sense the quality of our intellectual character even trumps moral character in terms of its power to direct the course of our lives” (Virtuous Minds* p22.)
Making choices and decisions are fundamental to everyday life. These decisions range from the relatively insignificant to life altering decisions about career, family, school choices for our children or where to live. In the ebb and flow of daily life large numbers of these decisions are made almost automatically without deep thought or discussion, and many of our decisions are driven by emotion, which is often subconscious (p123).
Have you ever given serious thought to what sort of people you hope your school will produce? Whether you are a school leader, a teacher or a parent, do you have an expectation that the school you are working in or sending your children to will do more than teach their students to read and write and pass exams? Are schools just places to prepare students for their life in the workforce and community or should they contribute to the formation of character? If schools have a broader function than exam preparation what might this look like?