Developing Character and Promoting Virtue

Posted on July 25, 2017

Many movies are remembered for one particular line. Perhaps the line encapsulated the message of the movie, or perhaps it just spoke truth. Do you remember the movies from which the following lines come, for example?

There’s no place like home.”

My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates.”

Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

How about “Greed is good”? That line was delivered by the character Gordon Gecko, in the 1987 movie Wall Street. But was he right? Greed may be very common, it may even be socially acceptable, but is it good? I’m going to stick my neck out and say that greed is not good – under any circumstances. Furthermore, I suggest that there are a host of character traits which are widespread in our society, but which we would not like to see developing in our children: cheating, gossiping, selfishness, arrogance, laziness.

I am quite confident that, in choosing a St Paul’s School education for your child(ren), you weren’t just hoping for great educational outcomes, and opportunities to participate in our music and sports programmes. I know that what I really hoped for as I raised my children, was that they would turn out to be good people – a man and two women of character – and I’m sure this is your desire for your children as well.

Martin Luther King Jr obviously shared this sentiment, as he said – “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education”.

I want to assure you that the staff at St Paul’s are deeply concerned about the issue of character development. Alongside, and as part of, our conversations about curriculum and pedagogy are discussions about developing empathy, compassion and generosity. We don’t just value the acquisition of knowledge and skills: we also esteem service learning and servant leadership.

I read this quote from Sharon Ely Pearson recently, and it seemed to capture both the challenge that we face and the response we are trying to make – “How do we nurture a generous spirit in children when it would seem the world is about self-aggrandizement, winning, and having the most toys? As caretakers of our children, we are responsible for nurturing that which already exists – providing an environment where their desire to be loved and part of a community is openly welcomed – acting as role models for what it means to be a generous, loving person made in the image of God”

I look forward to continuing the conversation with you.

Nigel Grant

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