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.
Dow explains that the benefits that come to the intellectually virtuous person can be broken down into 3 categories: we come to know more, become better thinkers, and become better people (p79).
Curiosity is defined as “an eager desire to know; inquisitiveness”. It asks the questions ‘why’ and ‘how’ and pursues the answers. It is often the forerunner of invention and new ideas. It is not just a state of mind but is active in its observation, investigation and exploration; in its pursuit of answers.
“Those who are fair-minded earnestly want to know the truth and thus are willing to listen in an even handed way to differing opinions, even if they already have strong views on the subject…they attempt to view the issue from the perspective of their opponents, believing they do not always have the most accurate or complete vantage point on a given issue….. they have chosen to put the truth above allegiance to their ego or cherished opinions…..” (p50)
There is something deeply satisfying about completing a task, especially when that task included significant obstacles or hardships. (p44)
Intellectual tenacity is simply dogged determination. It is this determination that in both our actions and our thinking habits often makes the difference between success and failure, fulfilment and frustration (p39).
"It is more from carelessness about truth than from intentionally lying that there is so much falsehood in the world." (p33)
The fact that we fail to be adequately careful in our thinking is usually not the fault of our intentions but simply the result of our being out of practice (p35). We are quick to defend our sloppiness with excuses like lack of time or overload of tasks and responsibilities. We may even come to believe that there is not enough time to be deliberately careful in our thinking. After all, in the everyday of life it doesn’t seem to make that much difference to the outcomes.
CS Lewis once wrote “you cannot practice any of the other virtues without bringing this one into play…it is the form of every virtue at the testing point. Honest thinking …. the courage to challenge frightening ideas and the courage to stick to your guns when you become convinced of the truth.”
Dow explains that “those who are intellectually courageous earnestly want to know the truth, and so they take risks in the pursuit of truth. They are willing to reconsider their own beliefs even if this scares them.” (p28)
“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?