This year, the elementary school students are learning about intellectual character. A new character trait based on the seven qualities that make up intellectual character will be presented each month. Ms. Fitcher has introduced this idea to the students, and this week she explained the first characteristic: intellectual courage.
So what exactly is intellectual character? Philip Dow states that intellectual character consists of our “inner attitudes and dispositions toward things like truth, knowledge, and understanding.” He includes the following character traits: courage, carefulness, tenacity, fair-mindedness, curiosity, honesty and humility. We often think of these traits as determining our moral character; however, Dow has expanded their definitions to include what they look like when it comes to how we think and learn. These attributes are important to develop because what we believe determines how we live.
Intellectual character may make more sense if I describe intellectual courage. We know that a fireman who runs into a burning building to save a child demonstrates courage. He may be afraid, but he risks his own life in order to serve his community and to do a most noble deed. How might courage be demonstrated in a school setting? A student who stands up to a bully to protect a weaker child is showing moral courage. A student who raises her hand to ask a question demonstrates intellectual courage. By asking for clarification the student is letting the other kids and the teacher know that she doesn’t understand something. Some students are honestly afraid to ask a question or to try something that is difficult. They may be afraid of failure, or they may be afraid that others will find out that they need extra help in order to understand a concept.
At ICSV, we want our students to overcome this fear and to demonstrate intellectual courage to stand up for truth, to risk being wrong, and to seek knowledge because “growth and progress require risk, and risk requires courage.” This month, why not ask your students how they are growing in courage? If you are interested in learning more about this concept, you should check out Philip Dow’s 2013 book called “Virtuous Minds: Intellectual Character Development.” Mr. Dow is the Head of School at Rosslyn Academy in Nairobi, Kenya. He will be speaking at the School Board’s Vision and Values Retreat next week on this very topic.
Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon Brobst, Director
Proverbs 2: 1-6 NIV
My son, if you accept My words and store up My commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding–indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.