Brittney Stewart

Special Education Aide, education

This conversation is closed.

What is the most important virtue to Americans today?

According to a recent article in the NYtimes, charter schools are trying to implement character building into their schools as part of their curriculum. What virtue is the most important to instill in our children?

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    Oct 8 2011: I don't know what it is but I'd really rather that parents were working on building character in their own children - not schools
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      Oct 9 2011: Hm, I'm along the same lines here. There's something afoot about any school trying to do this. There's an almost untouchable breadth and depth when it comes to something deep like one's virtues and values. Any school attempting to define this one set way to teach these makes me wonder.

      Well, if anything, compassion, critical observance and thinking, and avoiding dualistic judgments are great to consider, but I'd avoid having the school do this for me.
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    Oct 7 2011: Truth.
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      Oct 8 2011: Truth in general or the pursuit of it? It appears to come in many forms.
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        Oct 8 2011: The truth in general will lead us to understand that the pursuit of the truth is good. So they seems to be, essentially, the same thing - at least, that's how I understand it, and the reason why I now pursue philosophy.
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      Oct 8 2011: I agree Cameron. We live in a society and in a world where telling the truth appears to be some optional or quaint antiquated notion. In reality lies are a heinous thing to do to another person. In a world where we are all trying to navigate through life and count on the feedback from others to help us do that , liars distort the world, undermine choices and can even lead ships of state badly off course.

      Telling the truth is a fundamental responsibility or should be - to your fellow human beings.
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        Oct 8 2011: "Fundamental responsibility." That reminds me of Kant's Categorical Imperative - basing moral choice on 'duty':
        "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law."

        If lying is to be accepted, then we accept it as how it should be done.
    • Oct 10 2011: hum, u think so. i acctualy like when people lie....it speaks so much more about who and what they are than a truth. besides what is truth? whose truth? perception of truth....hum, good one though.
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        Oct 10 2011: Lying, to me, shows that someone can't handle things that are beyond their own desires - something very selfish. I think telling people the truth shows more about the person than lying.

        However, this conversation isn't about whether or not it opens people up to others, but whether or not it is valuable to the American society.
      • Oct 12 2011: @ Ilijana -

        From the ever quotable Colonel Landa,

        "Facts can be misleading, whereas rumors, true or false, are often very revealing."

        As Nietzsche says, there are "virtues for which we hold our grandfathers in honor -- and at arm's length." Perhaps always telling the truth is one such virtue. Those who insist on being told the truth must not have the eyes to see it for themselves.

        & @ Cameron

        "I think telling people the truth shows more about the person than lying."

        How now?

        Telling the truth is akin to making a photograph of a scene and passing it along untouched. Lying is akin to painting an entirely different scene than reality portrays. Surely, SURELY, you agree that an artist puts more of himself in a painting than in a photograph, no? Truth - as the masses behold it - is actually the elimination of individual input. Think about it - what aspect of yourself could you include in an account of the truth? Conversely - what aspect of yourself could you NOT betray in the web of lies you spin?

        I am supposing you are in favor of the Imperative - being that your arguments seem to be in line with its eradication of subjectivity. Is this the case? I, for one, find it to be the most chaotic and nonsensical dictum ever expressed, even by a German. Consider the third formulation (my absolute favorite) - "Therefore, every rational being must so act as if he were through his maxim always a legislating member in the universal kingdom of ends." What is this man even talking about? And isn't he, in effect, telling you to lie to yourself? For there is no 'universal kingdom of ends' and even if there were, you will never act as a 'legislating member' of it. To pretend otherwise is a contradiction of reality and therefore - a lie. And believe me, such a lie says A LOT about Kant, more so that any 'truth' he ever uttered.

        SEP
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    Oct 10 2011: I'm not so big on the truth idea. People have differing truthes which often conflict. Perhpas honesty is a better word. But then it is not always good or wise to be honest. Hmmmmph!!!!!!
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    Oct 8 2011: Consumerism.
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      Oct 9 2011: Consumerism is what it seems to be, as opposed to what we want it to be, things like integrity and the like.
  • Oct 8 2011: Character definition needs to start at home and be nurtured from the time the child is aware of right and wrong until they are adults and making such decisions on their own. Character corrections and developing requires an awareness of what the child has been taught is appropriate behavior and continued observation that the child makes the ethical and appropriate decision when confronted by temptation, stress or similar challenging circumstances. This is the responsibility of the parents.

    Schools, charter or any other, should help the parents with the observation part of the process when the kids are in school. They should re-enforce the rules of fairness, good general conduct, ethical behavior, and try to stress the importance of personal improvement. They should stand firm in required adherence to school rules and policies and allow this to be a test bed for the rules and policies of the adult world. They should lead the way in defining the academic development of the students, and be supported by the parents.

    Schools might teach cultural differences, ethical choices, decisions and consequences, government and governing and things that might be defined as being a good citizen. The Scouting programs has a program that encourages family interaction in the development of a child's character, but it is an extra-curricular program, not a scholastic program. A personal and family choice for the child. Similarly, religious programs teach ethics and general character building, but there are many faiths and beliefs.
  • Oct 13 2011: Tolerance. (yea!)
  • Oct 12 2011: The most important virtue is humility. A little respect can go a long way in life.
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    Oct 10 2011: A lot of people say 'truth' but isn't that a little vague? The United States often likes to talk about 'freedom' and how they have it more than anybody else, but I'd be hard pressed to find someone who could tell me exactly in what way. I think 'truth', if not defined, could have the potential of being one more empty shell thrown around for the benefit of patriotism. Truth could also be easily hijacked by religious evangelism which we certainly should not want.
  • Oct 10 2011: Hum, Materialism I guess...but similar as anywhere in the world. I like the rational self interest though. In order to nurture others, you must nurture yourself first (native american saying).
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    Oct 10 2011: Selfishness. If people were truly selfish and knew what was good for themselves the world would be a better place. This man was the most selfish and yet the most generous man i had ever known. How could this be?
  • Oct 10 2011: Without any doubt in my mind it would be to "always" be truthful as long as you don't hurt anyone in saying it. For instance if someone looks really bad and asked you how they looked, it would be hurtful to say really bad. It would be hurtful if someone asked you what you thought of their looks and you said they were ugly. I think you understand what I mean with those as examples. It's much easier to be truthful than to lie, you can't get caught in the truth. In the examples I gave you could just say who am I to say, and afterall who are we to say.
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    Oct 9 2011: Skepticism is the value that should be instilled. It is the virtue that will kick down all sorts of wrong pre-conceived notions prevalent in the US.
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    Oct 9 2011: There are hundreds of valid answers to this question; however, I suspect that one of the most basic needs for any individual was stated by Shakespeare: "To thine own self be true." With integrity you can not only live with yourself and sleep at night - you can be proud of who you are, too.
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    Oct 8 2011: Integrity.
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    Oct 7 2011: I agree with Cameron but would like to modify it a bit and say truth tempered with compassion
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      Oct 8 2011: The Beatles should rephrase the lyric...All you need is truth
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      Oct 8 2011: Good point James. I always admonished my kids to "never use truth as a weapon." We all know people who take great delight in telling some version of a truth that will devastate someone else: like 'you are adopted', 'I knew he was having an affair 3 years ago', or 'you sing like a wounded toad." If the point of telling a truth is to truly help another person tell away if it is to gain some power trip shut up!