Home' Independence : Independence Vol 40 No 1 May 2015 Contents 70 INDEPENDENCE VOL 40 NO 1 MAY 2015
HOW TO FOSTER THE FOUR CARDINAL VIRTUES
ESSENTIAL NEURAL BASES SOME PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS FOR HOME AND SCHOOL
control) is the habit of
choosing well the things
we wish to enjoy.
Temperance is effectively a healthy
conditioning in our expectations for
sense-based rewards, inculcated
either in our upbringing or by one’s
Foster pleasure in what is good, true and beautiful by exposing children early to enriched
Model the capacity to direct attention to what is good for us, and to say no to wayward desires for
excess or emotional outbursts.
Help children develop the habit of choosing what they pay attention to.
Say no as often as needed, but calmly and affectionately. By learning to obey their parents and
teachers, young people learn to obey their own reason.
Model detachment from material things.
Parents should offer ongoing, personal, sex and relationships education backed up by their own
example of dedication to each other.
Don’t appease tantrums.
Fortitude (courage) is
the habit of overcoming
fears and discomfort for
a good reason.
Fortitude is a conditioning of our
fear responses so that they are
neither paralysing nor creating
underperformance. This involves rich
fear dampening connectivity between
amygdala and specific areas of the
Model the patience and resilience that are implicit characteristics of fortitude.
Teach children not to be afraid of challenges and difficulties; build a culture of ‘having another go’.
Model optimism and faith.
Foster a healthy hardiness, characterised by physical resilience and a refusal to feel sorry for oneself.
Work is a school of fortitude. Insist calmly on duty before play. Jobs and timetables create a simple
structure where children can learn to demand of themselves.
Justice (respect for
others) is the habit of
always taking the rights
and needs of others into
account in our actions.
Justice features rich cortical
deliberation about the consequences
towards others for our intended
actions. Memory of past experience
as well as the reward circuitry
triggered by the joy of serving
others are implicated. Attentional
systems have been conditioned to
preferentially attend to others.
Build a culture of kindness in the family and in the classroom.
Teach children to pay attention to others, and that we must measure each of our actions by the
impact it has on others. For example, teach that we always clean up our own mess, and never
criticise others gratuitously.
Teach generosity and compassion with guided practice. Teach that a habit that delivers love to
others is a virtue.
Teach that people are more important than things.
Foster a spirit of gratitude.
Foster wonder! We are not the centre of the universe.
Ensure children experience the joy of serving others.
Teach that cheerfulness is the bridge to friendships and relationships.
judgement) is the habit
of setting goals that
are good for us and
achievable. It is the
capacity for critical
evaluation of situations
according to one’s
understanding of what
is right and wrong.
Prudence is characterised
by cortical goal assessment
and election, informed by the
previous three predispositions.
It also features the capacity for
deliberation about means to
achieve these goals.
Teach ‘Rational Psychology 101’. Our head guides our emotional life. Ensure each child has an
understanding of the power of emotion to enrich or derail our lives.
Teach that every choice, every decision changes us for better or worse. Teach the importance of
habits and how to build them.
Teach the skills of goal setting, prioritising and planning. Practice builds new pathways.
Ask a child’s opinions. Allow choices and then debrief to teach the skills of wise choice making.
Correct mistakes calmly. Be patient; keep explaining the problem so that a child develops the
facility for critical judgement.
Address negative patterns of behaviour early.
Insist on sincerity with oneself and with others.
Teach young people how to remake bad habits through convictions and specific plans of action.
Convictions trump past habits. Refocused attention trumps old habits. Goals trump impulses.
Talk often and deeply. Schedule time weekly.
Teach right and wrong.
Teach humility and self efficacy, which is well-founded confidence in one’s abilities.
Foster time for reflection.
Model the peace of heart and joy which derives from the state of virtue.
constellation of processes associated
with experience-induced neural
plasticity, a learning process that is
commonly moderated by the suffusion
through the cortex of dopamine from the
mid brain. The subcortical basal ganglia
as well as areas of the prefrontal cortex
appear to be key participants in systems
at the heart of our capacity to form
intentional habits, in reward processing,
and in cognitive processing of emotion.
Neuroscience delivers some important
lessons for educators, and parents.
1. Children are designed to be
Children are ‘designed’ to absorb from
their environment. They are incredibly
efficient learners and will imitate
whoever or whatever they spend time
with. Example is a powerful teacher, and
by rights it gives a child’s own parents
the inside running to pass on their own
values and attitudes ... unless they
surrender that space to outsiders.
Last year I watched as eight-year-old
boys in the school playground play-
acted the perfect punch they had seen
the night before in the biggest football
game of the year. We must manage the
inputs coming into a child’s life – their
peer group, what they see, what they
read. Stranger danger comes in many
Mirror neurons appear to be at the
centre of this capacity to imitate. These
cells, discovered by Italian researchers
in the mid-1990s, seem to provide the
explanation for the immediate grasp of
an action that we witness, for example,
when we smile at a one-year-old who
automatically smiles back.
Behaviours are self-reinforcing and very
quickly a pattern is established – for
better or for worse. Therefore we must
address negative patterns of behaviour
early and reinforce positive behaviours.
We must make early experience count.
We know that windows for learning are
wide open only for a time. Think of how
much easier it is for a young child to
develop a musical ear or the sounds of
a foreign language. So let us use these
sensitive windows to instil virtues and
habits like order, courtesy, idealism,
generosity and modesty.
Furthermore, first experiences can
be indelible. Many studies show that
novelty triggers learning. Just so,
we still like the music we listened
to as teenagers. Lack of diligence in
this regard may constrain a child’s
development or even scar them for
life. We know for example that violent
screen images have three effects:
increased short-term aggression, de-
sensitisation to violence, and a certain
paranoia where situations and people
are perceived in error to be threatening.
These effects are felt in children most of
all because the development of a young
person’s capacity for cortical processing
lags behind the capacity to absorb
emotional content. Why do we allow
this heavy baggage to burden the young
people in our care?
We know that learning is triggered
by positive effects. We can use vivid
and positive emotional experiences to
teach life lessons. High expectations
and encouragement are a powerful
2. Our emotional example is at the
heart of motivational teaching
At the core of motivation is the
emotional hit we get from carrying
out an action. We must therefore raise
person is a person
both master of
and enriched by
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