Virtue in Education
I came across this story today with the picture to the left about how the “Old Guard” patrols, maintains and honors Arlington National Cemetery. In particular, it tells of how the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded every second of every day and has for over 63 years, including through this weekend’s hurricane Irene.
The soldiers in the Old Guard view this assignment as the very highest honor they could ever have. They are fallen human beings like the rest of us, and I have no idea what their personal lives are like. But at the very least, in this area, they display some of the highest virtues humanity can express.
As we train our students’ minds in our various academic fields, how can we inspire and challenge their souls to the higher purposes of life? If they can conjugate the perfect past tense of Latin verbs or integrate the Schrodinger wave equation in polar coordinates, can they also define, explain the importance of, and most importantly, live out the virtues that lift us above mere instinct and self interest?
If not, why are we here?
Since virtue is caught more than taught, how do we model it in tangible ways? How do we provide opportunities for them to develop it in practice? This is the original and true purpose of the humanities, and as we lose that vision, and move away from the Great Stories, focusing on mere literary criticism, we rob the very soul of our culture.
Tell the story of the Old Guard. They are the living and visible embodiment of the soul of our culture and nation. They are a contemporary Great Story. Our hearts need the reminder.