Virtues

Character education is a central emphasis in the complete development and formation of young Virtuesscholars at Liberty Common High School. Liberty invests thirteen years of character education toward the lives of its students.

The positive character qualities accentuated at Liberty complement the building blocks established at home, thereby reinforcing in students the moral tools required to lead within a democratic republic—a system that best thrives upon common virtue.

Building upon the “Foundation Stones” of Liberty Common Elementary School (CLICK HERE), Liberty Common High School highlights its “Capstones” as representing the highest order of virtue and character.

The overarching achievement of a virtuous life within the context of scholarly pursuits is the acquisition and development of wisdom. Wisdom is the “Keystone” virtue associated with a Liberty Common High School graduate.

LCHS Capstones:

Prudence – Predicated upon practical reason, prudence entails discernment of the true good surrounding every situation and seeks the moral means of achieving it.

Temperance – Restraint in passions of ambition and pleasure. Temperance places intellect, balance, and reason above impulsiveness, setting limits in order to attain that which is honorable.

Justice – Balance between self-interest and the rights of others. Justice entails a mature appreciation of what is due another whether among equals, superiors, or subordinates.

Fortitude – Including forbearance, endurance and the ability to withstand fear, uncertainty or intimidation, Fortitude is the strength to defend what is good.

Gratitude – An inclination to express thankfulness and gratefulness to others for their gifts and gestures of kindness, Gratitude kindles virtue in both ourselves and others.

Patriotism – Devotion and dedication to the country – allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and justice for all.

*With regard to Prudence, Temperance, Justice and Fortitude, Plato identified these virtues with the classes of the city described in The Republic, and with the faculties of man. They are also known as the “cardinal virtues,” indicating “the hinges upon which the door of the moral life swings.”

The following excerpts add depth and context to the Liberty Capstones and Virtues:

On Prudence:

VirtuesOf the several threats to freedom, bureaucracy ranks high on the list. So why do prosperous organizations, including entire nations, inevitably strangle themselves by the tentacles of freedom-crippling bureaucracy?

Bureaucracy stems from a desire to formalize virtue. When a particular habit or policy fails to deliver order, the impulse of leaders, especially in a democracy, is to impose bigger and more comprehensive rules to make sure the mistake does not happen again.

Over time, reliance on virtuous people yields to a dependency on virtuous rules, regulations, policies, checks, balances and systematic accountability. This is the essence of bureaucracy.

In bureaucratic cultures, practical judgment and personal virtues are deemphasized. Praise and appreciation instead accrue to those who follow the rules and who go by the book.

From there, the law itself comes to define public morality. “If it is legal,” bends the logic of a bureaucratic society, “it must be acceptable.”

Freedom, however, thrives by prudence, a virtue predicated upon practical reason. It entails discernment of the true good surrounding every situation and the moral means of achieving it.

Prudence is antithetic to bureaucracy. It elevates individual responsibility and secures liberty.

St. Thomas Aquinas identified various parts of prudence. He characterized acquired prudence as perfected through the exercise of acts and lessons.

Also, he wrote of gratuitous prudence which is infused and reinforced by virtuous habits, for example, those modeled by good parenting, religion, perhaps schooling.

The Founding Fathers believed every man should share in the governing of America according to the free choice of his reason, and that it is proper for all self-governing citizens to possess the virtue of prudence. Abraham Lincoln spoke persistently about the necessity of prudence.

It is a core American virtue about which Americans scarcely speak anymore. Yet, prudence is the most powerful and complete remedy for the disease of bureaucracy.

Prudence promotes freedom which is why we rely on it, and speak often of it.

On Temperance:

VirtuesCrisis moments thrive on confusion. Those whose ambitions entail power and dominion love a good crisis. They refuse to “let one go to waste.”

Confronting such tyranny is often equally imprudent especially when predicated upon fear. Still, levelheaded resistance to tyranny is essential. At such a time, temperance is the moral virtue that brands our best leaders.

The moral virtue of temperance restrains the passions of ambition and pleasure. It places intellect and reason above impulsiveness setting limits in order to attain that which is honorable. It is the cardinal virtue that places noble ideas and wholesome values higher than the interests of the struggle itself.

Understood in the proper context of temperance, a good victory is not a matter of winning a contest. It is instead a function of the goodness proposed, advanced and secured.

Temperance is not compromise. Temperance suggests leaders should not just play to their strengths and inclinations. Their personal desires and appetites should be restrained when necessary for a more desirable greater good.

Words like “moderation” and “sobriety” are often associated with the virtue of temperance. At a time when some see a crisis as an opportunity for gain, the eye of the honorable leader is always on the sacred prize of liberty.

On Justice:

VirtuesAmericans should be deeply concerned about a growing tendency toward incessant assertions of one’s rights. In the first place, it is a most unfortunate fact that so many citizens lack the basic understanding of the meaning of a legitimate right.

There are, of course, natural rights, legal rights, civil rights and other kinds. Even among those who should know the difference, how many politicians today exhibit elementary competence (much less an inclination) to discern a right from an entitlement?

How about among soldiers? Teachers? Pastors? Even judges?

Throughout our Republic, the sanctity of individual rights is the paramount object of human dignity. The moral virtue absolutely necessary to uphold any right is justice.

Justice is not a mere function of the law. It is a mature appreciation of what is due another whether among equals, superiors or subordinates.

In fact, the law alone is inadequate to the maintenance of justice. Some laws actually pervert it.

Unlike a fundamental right, justice is not always equally distributed. What one is due is peculiar to each individual. For example, justice defines itself differently in the cases of the elderly, parents, veterans, the sick, children, widows, employees, the poor.

Justice is not something one typically claims for himself. He understands it belongs to others as he engages in normal relationships with his neighbors.

A right is natural, self-evident and unalienable whereas justice is not. Justice is a core fiber of morality that must be embraced, practiced and acts of justice are perfected.

VirtuesThe benevolent leader will overcome the impulse of self-advancement – of dwelling on his own rights – by concerning himself first with his obligations to others. That is what it means to be in possession of the cardinal, moral virtue of justice.

Indeed, as Aristotle observed, “In justice is all virtues found in sum.” One goal of the serious leader must be to reinforce virtuous habits of justice, to firm the will, subjecting it to reason in an effort to flush selfishness and defend true rights.



On Fortitude:

In all our searching for virtuous leaders there is scarce mention nowadays of the one foundational virtue upon which so many others stand: Fortitude.

Plato regarded it as a core element of perfect wisdom. He characterized fortitude as “the principle of not flying danger, but meeting it.”

Webster’s defines fortitude as “strength or firmness of mind that enables a Virtuesperson to encounter danger with coolness and courage or to bear pain or adversity without murmuring, depression, or despondency.”

Some say uncertainty presents unique burdens for champions who see themselves as defenders of virtue. Answered in the context of fortitude, such burdens are rather cheerfully embraced as valuable leadership opportunities.

William Faulkner issued a compelling statement about fortitude in remarks delivered in 1950 at a state dinner in Stockholm whereupon he received the Nobel Prize for literature.

Though he spoke of the duties of serious writers, his observations were no less directed toward anyone obliged to inspire whether by the pen, the podium or personal example. One must, “teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever,” Faulkner said.

Faulkner called for focus on “the old verities and truths of the heart” which include “love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.” Fortitude is a function of experience and entails subjecting oneself to ongoing personal tests of increased difficulty.

Fortitude is proven by those who experience and survive depths of despair, who turn agony into hope and who overcome doubt by summoning courage.

Such leaders are in high demand today. We must work to prepare men and women who possess the rare virtue of fortitude for the noble calling of civic leadership – to become foundational leaders upon which others stand.

On Gratitude:

When learning a foreign language, among the first phrases memorized is one of thanksgiving. Gracias, syeh-syeh, danke, spah-see-boh, merci, mahalo, dya-koo-yoo – in any language, “thank you” is typically the first verbalized interjection.

From an early age, children are taught to say “thank you” in return for any kindness great or small. Showing gratitude is a universal response to another’s generosity.

VirtuesIt is a human act reinforced by habit in youth, internalized to sincerity as one matures. Though gratitude might be expected, acts of gratitude are most meaningful when they are sincere and voluntary.

The word gratitude comes from the Latin gratus meaning “grace.” The Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero regarded gratitude “the mother of all virtues.”

Genuine gratitude is deeper than saying “thank you.” A virtuous leader transcends such reflexive habits becoming suffused with an innate disposition toward earnest gratefulness.

A sure virtue, gratitude stems from the cardinal virtue of justice. As such, the appropriate expression of gratitude is unique to each particular expression of generosity.

True gratitude is an acknowledgement of varying degrees of indebtedness owed to various causes. In parsing the nuances of gratitude, St. Thomas Aquinas identified a hierarchy of causes warranting differing degrees of gratitude.

In religion, for example, Aquinas described gratitude to God as “worship” – acts of indebtedness to the giver of all things. For parents, gratitude is reflected as honor. For superiors, such as bosses or teachers, gratitude is displayed through observance and attentiveness.

VirtuesWhat each benefactor is due depends upon the gravity of the gift. In all cases, there are three distinct parts of gratitude that should be demonstrated.

The first is recognition of the gift received. Second, is an outward expression of thankfulness. Third, is repayment of the favor in some suitable way according to one’s station and ability.

When possible, a repayment of gratitude should be greater than the gift. It should acknowledge the kind gesture was extended freely and without obligation.

Finally, good leaders should be prone to being generous to the ungrateful. Since developing the virtue of gratitude is a responsive function of an initial favor, initiating exchanges of kindness is a most direct way to influence another away from the depravity of ingratitude.

Showing gratitude promotes happiness. A culture of gratitude promotes justice, humility, respect and honor. Gratitude discourages the harmful trappings of excessive pride and selfishness.

Habits of gratitude are actively promoted at LCHS. We simultaneously foster a deeper appreciation for the fullest meaning of gratitude, that our scholars may develop a cheerful character distinctly infused with the cherished virtue of gratitude.

On Patriotism:

Subjects of landed political jurisdictions are prone to attach loyalty to the defensible boundaries of their existence. This can quickly lead one away from authentic citizenship and toward servitude.

Patriotism, on the other hand, rests upon a personal identification and agreement with a set of commonly held values that define a nation and its relationship to its citizens. For example, patriotism associated with a monarchy is loyalty to a king or queen, perhaps an oligarchy. This is the devotion of a subject to his master.

VirtuesPatriotism justified by nothing firmer than the location of one’s birth is blind patriotism – the cause of wars, the taciturnity that feeds national corruption and accepts misery.

True patriotism is a loyal devotion to a set of high moral ideals. For Americans, these values are well defined in patriotic documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Patriotism expressed by Americans is associated with the philosophy expressed in these and other philosophical statements that are representations of Virtuesfreedom and virtue. True patriots are prepared to sacrifice it all for the preservation of honorable traditions that their children may continue to enjoy the fruits of authentic liberty.

America’s Founding Fathers summed up their patriotic commitment in the last line of the Declaration, “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

The true patriot understands America is not an expanse on a map. It is instead a set of ideals, rather simple ones, at that. They include concepts such as self-evident truths, “unalienable” rights given by no man or political jurisdiction, belonging to each individual as a function of natural law.

Good patriotism is demonstrated by those who fully understand these concepts, whose depth of knowledge allows them to appreciate the historical context and lesson of how philosophy supports and honors the dignity and human essence of mankind.

Good patriotism entails knowing the underlying principles worth defending and the costs associated with losing them. Completely apprised, great leaders become more than the “summer soldier and the sunshine patriot” described by Thomas Paine in the winter of 1776.

Wholesome patriotism is absolutely necessary in the maintenance of our Republic – the one to which American students pledge allegiance each day. Actively promoting truly informed patriotism is a cause to which we must remain fully dedicated.

Indeed, America is in desperate need of patriotic leaders who will not shrink from the service of their country. For, “he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” (T. Paine).

On Wisdom – The Keystone Virtue of LCHS:

Making the best use of knowledge is the essence of wisdom. Virtues
Plato described wisdom as knowing about what is good and perfect, then summoning the courage to seek goodness and perfection accordingly.

He analyzed wisdom by evaluating the quality of relationships. The wise man, he reasoned, is inclined toward perfection in key relationships such as friendships, neighborliness, government, with love and the Divine.

VirtuesSocrates believed wisdom also entails awareness of what one does not know – having an appreciation of what information is missing when analyzing a particular question. One of his more famous quotes is, “I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.”

Some say wisdom is a gift with which, or without which, one is born. Others ascribe a kind of intuition to those perceived to be in possession of wisdom. Some people seem to instinctively know good from bad, right from wrong and how to make the best choices.

VirtuesUnder any circumstances, it is clear wisdom stems from knowledge. Wisdom can be imparted, improved and enhanced. The more one knows, the more prepared he will be to successfully negotiate a broader range of situations and on a broader range of subjects. More knowledge makes one wiser and more courageous.

Wisdom is necessary to fully appreciate that which is beautiful, true and perfect. The ability to appreciate noble objectives also requires a moral outlook informed by virtue. Thomas Jefferson observed, “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”

Wisdom is associated with informed, gallant leadership. It is “the supreme part of happiness,” according to Sophocles who also said, “Wisdom outweighs any wealth.”

If the dissemination of knowledge from one generation to the next is the underlying purpose of education, then wisdom is a complete expression of the core academic objective of any worthy academic institution.

Virtues
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