Schools of Virtue

“Marion Turner, professor of English literature at Oxford University, put it frankly: “I’m not trained to teach students how to be good people, and that’s not my job.”

It’s a fair point. It is very pleasant to make a list of intellectual virtues, but why should we believe that academics can teach students courage, humility or any othe r virtue? Yet if not academics, then who? Parents? Primary schoolteachers? Newspaper columnists? Perhaps we should just hope that people acquire these virtues for themselves? I am really not sure.

Barry Schwartz is on to something, that is clear. Facts, logic, quantitative tools and analytical clarity are all very well, but the art of thinking well requires virtues as well as skills. And if we don’t know who will teach those virtues, or how to teach them, that explains a lot about the world in which we now live.”

-Tim Harford, “Learning to think well involves hearts as well as minds.” Financial Times. July 7, 2022

It’s an interesting point. If it is not the job of our universities, colleges and/or grade schools to teach people to be good, whose job is it? Where are our schools of virtue?

It seems the most likely answer: we don’t have them.