Pondering Virtue

| November 16, 2011

Howard Radest, Dean Emeritus of The Humanist Institute and a member of the National Council of Ethical Culture Leaders spoke recently at the University Seminar on Innovation in Education. His talk, “Can Virtue Be Taught? Character Education Isn’t Enough,” delved deeply into complex moral and philosophical questions about virtue, aesthetics, dialogue, dialectic, teaching, learning, curriculum, knowledge, and values – blurring the line between teacher and student.

Among the most striking findings of the Seminar were:

  • The answers to the question “Why Do We Do the Right Thing?” should be framed as “ands” rather than “ors”!
  • Doing the Right Thing is a social act, not just individual (cf. David Brooks’ The Social Animal)
  • Abstract “character education” slogans (like the Boy Scout oath) are inadequate to the problematical nature of moral judgments.
  • Moral education should not be a separate curriculum component but concomitant with the whole school operation.
  • Moral inquiry is extended, complex, and necessarily on-going, which is why the major “enterprises” take centuries (e.g. the Talmud, Christian exegesis, Common Law).

Feeding right into the next Socratic, Why Do We Do the Right Thing?, Thursday, 11/17, 4-5pm, these findings help us ponder our greater role as parents, teachers, educators, citizens.