Friday, July 18, 2008

Intellectual Character

Schools aren't always exactly centers of intellectualism. My own high school was pretty anti-intellectual, truth be told. Ron Ritcheart's "Intellectual Character" is an attempt to foster a true love of learning. The whole concept of "intellectual character" is an interesting one and he defines it more as a set of practiced dispositions and habits of mind in tune with the life of the mind. As such, it is not a mere list of skills or "core knowledge". Intellectual character becomes a way of approaching knowledge. This stands in direct contradistinction to the way many schools currently educate the young.

The book is largely a series of six interconnected case studies that examines ways to engage student's intellectual character. The text ranges from the very theoretical to some very practical advice such as tips on setting the stage for inquiry on the very first day of class. There are suggestions for curriculum development to decorating your classroom and so on. All of this sounds fairly pedestrian, but in fact there are some great suggestions here.

I cannot say that "Intellectual Character" is a great read but it is an important read for educators who worry that we're underselling our kids with a mediocre pedagogy that fills them with facts and sterile "skills". All of this is a tough road and there will be skeptics. None of this is really contained within a measurable series of metrics, but giving students intellectual purpose and direction seems more important to me.

No comments: