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Educating the Heart Over the Mind

Have you ever known anyone who was really smart, but really mean?


Were there kids in your school who always let you know when they had finished their math test and you hadn't . . . or got an "A" when you got a "C" . . . or ridiculed you on the playground?


Have you been reading about scientists who are arrogant beyond belief in their self-centered approach to ethical concerns the rest of us may have about research on human embryos, cloning and the like? We think they're heartless, and they think we're stupid?


That's why we have character education, at home and at school. It won't do us much good to make people smart and highly-skilled if they're impossible to work with, live with, or even like. What good is it to be smart if you're dishonest, greedy, immoral and uncaring?


That's not saying that training in handling emotions and feelings are the job of school more than delivering academics; of course, they aren't. But if someone's heart is not in the right place, it doesn't matter where the brain may land that person among standardized test scores. So it's the job of both home and school to educate the heart as well as the mind.


This has been a fact of life, and a challenge to teachers, throughout human history. One of America's first teachers said it very well in establishing that character education is even more important than the 3 R's:

The virtues of men are of more consequence to society than their abilities;

and for this reason, the heart should be cultivated with more assiduity* than the head.
-- Noah Webster, On the Education of Youth in America, 1788


* assuiduity: diligent effort



By Susan Darst Williams Heart Lessons 042 2007


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