Give me a deepening knowledge of truth and a finer discernment of the ideas I encounter in my studies. Guard my mind always against error, and guard also my heart against the temptation to compare my own performance to the work of my peers, and so to fall into either of the twin traps of shame or pride. – Excerpt from ‘A Liturgy for Students & Scholars,’ Every Moment Holy by Douglas Mckelvey
At Covenant, an excellent student is not defined by numerical grades, but by the habits of heart and mind that form and express a student’s character. The following “intellectual virtues” taken from Habits of the Mind by James Sire challenge each teacher and student to apply biblical principles to the area of academics. They illustrate what it means to be faithful with one’s gifts and abilities—how a godly person would approach the learning process. As these virtues grow within a student, academic growth will follow.
Passion for Truth
Passion for Holiness
Desire to apply what is learned
Love for God and others
Passion for Consistency
Compassion for Others
Clarity of expression
Orderliness of presentation
Aptness of illustration
The Acquisition Virtues govern how and why people learn new things, emphasizing that truth is the goal of learning. One who exhibits these qualities will ask questions and will continue asking questions until he understands. He will not act as if he cannot learn anything from certain people or as if all his assumptions must be correct. Learning will not be limited to school hours or to academic settings. All of life is this person’s classroom.
The Application Virtues demand that the learner do something with his knowledge. We are not to be simply collectors of information and insight; we must apply our knowledge to life. Having integrity leads people to hold themselves to the same standard to which they hold others. They practice what they preach, even when it is hard. These students are not those of which James would say that they look in the mirror but go away without fixing anything.
The Maintenance Virtues remind us that effort is required not only to acquire knowledge but to retain it. When remembering or recalling information is a struggle, these characteristics cause a person to press on. This person won’t be found cramming for exams or only working hard when report card time comes close.
The Communication Virtues concern how we express our knowledge to others. Do we talk over their heads, or do we find ways to make sure that what we are saying is clear to our audience? Taking time to carefully present information, either in writing or orally, in a way that considers the audience is one way that we honor others—even when those others are teachers!
Humility dominates the lists as it speaks to the motivation behind all the other virtues. Is chasing the truth only for the purpose of dominating others? Does one put together a carefully constructed presentation only to look better than one’s classmates? Or, are one’s academic abilities and hard work offered with the recognition that all good things have come from God and are to be used for the good of others and the glory of God? The humble student refrains from flaunting either his mistakes or his successes in ways that belittle others. The humble student can celebrate others’ success and will help others in their weaknesses. The humble student measures neither himself nor others by their academic accomplishments.