Education's Greatest Virtue: Training Students to Make Good Choices

Posted by Kylee Bowman on Apr 23, 2020 11:37:01 PM

"Not being able to govern events, I govern myself." - Michel de Montaigne

Truly, there is much about the circumstances of our world today that is far beyond our own ability to govern. Surely, when de Montaigne was philosophizing during the French Renaissance, there was also plenty of turmoil and uncertainty swirling about. Whether in a pandemic, a war, an economic depression, or a massive church Reformation, the things which remain beyond our control but yet profoundly affect our lives will always be present.

And so, though we cannot govern events, we must learn to govern ourselves. And we must teach our children to learn the same.

Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 7.14.53 PMThere is a distinct word for this "ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason."

That, my friends, is the official definition of prudence.

Back in March, just one day before the cascade of closed schools and businesses began to ripple across our state, Veritas hosted Hillsdale professor Dr. Matthew Spalding for a timely lecture titled "Prudence: Education's Greatest Virtue."

Little did we know just how often the prudence of our leaders would be called into question in the coming days and weeks. In a nation already divided by partisan dissensions, the onslaught of a pandemic and the measures needed to stem its devastation has brought new quarrels to the table. 

Our leaders - and all of us - are in uncharted waters, and our decisions don't have the benefit of hindsight at the moment. Now more than ever, we, and those in government over us, desperately need prudence.

Dr. Spalding, in his lecture, calls us to examine the example of George Washington. Spalding notes that every moment of Washington's life was about making decisions under immense pressure, and in particular circumstances in which he had limited amounts of knowledge. He, also, had no benefit of hindsight.

We would all do well to continue to learn from this example today, and fervently seek the virtue of prudence.

Thomas Jefferson once said of George Washington,

“Perhaps the strongest feature in his character was prudence, never acting until every circumstance, every consideration, was maturely weighted; refraining if he saw doubt, but, when once decided, going through his purpose, whatever obstacles opposed."

With the daily difficult decisions and uncertainty facing our nation and world right now, the exercise of prudence is critical. Whether in how we personally manage our own homes and businesses, or how our leaders decide on their directives, we are obliged to strive to make good choices - "to govern and discipline ourselves by use of reason." Prudence.

How do we instill this virtue in our children, so that they might also benefit from what Aristotle called "phronesis," this "practical virtue" of wisdom implying both good judgement and excellence of character and habits?

Secondary reading bibleDr. Spalding asserts that the best way to instill prudence in our children is through Classical Christian Education. It's a combination of studying the truth of things - long, deep, philosophically established truths - but then also studying history, and how those truths can be put into practice. Teach them about the permanent things - philosophy, logic, theology - real, unchanging things. And teach them history through biography, so they may see examples of those who were either heroes or foes of prudence.

Dr. Spalding's lecture is timely, inspiring, and thought-provoking - for any parent concerned for their child's future, for any educator longing to instill virtue in their classrooms, and for any citizen looking to enrich their understanding of our times and how we can best manage ourselves and set an example for our culture.

We invite you to watch his presentation here, and share it with others, so that we might proliferate the virtue of prudence in our families, communities, and nation.

Are you looking for a school that not only instills knowledge, but also a love of learning and a foundation of faith in your child? One that will prepare them to engage the world with truth, beauty and goodness as a critical thinker and exceptional communicator? We invite you to get to know us at Veritas and explore Classical Christian Education. We're passionate about this school and we've seen the way it prepares students for life...and we would love for you to experience it, too!

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Topics: Christian education, education philosophy