For some people, the word ‘virtue’ might recall old-fashioned taught ideals of “Do this! Do that!”, whereas for others it will conjure up images of big businesses ‘greenwashing’ in their quest to capitalise on eco-trends.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, ‘virtue signalling’ is ‘an attempt to show other people that you are a good person, for example by expressing opinions that will be acceptable to them, especially on social media.’ The expression is often used to imply that the virtue being signalled is exaggerated or insincere.

In a 2015 Spectator article, British journalist James Bartholomew described virtue signalling as easy, empty boasting: ‘No one actually has to do anything. Virtue comes from mere words or even from silently held beliefs. There was a time in the distant past when people thought you could only be virtuous by doing things…[that] involve effort and self-sacrifice.’

However, here at Ten Ten, we think it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to virtues and virtue signalling! We think virtues have a crucial role to play in character formation and education, so want to reclaim them from the presumably even more ‘distant past’ than what James Bartholomew spoke of back in 2015. Let us explain why…

What are ‘virtues’?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that:

A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.

CCC, 1803

This empowering and life-affirming description of virtue supports our view that true character education refrains from telling pupils what they should or shouldn’t do, but instead invites them to ask themselves: “What kind of person do I want to become?” and “How can I flourish? How can I play my part in creating a society that flourishes?”

In ‘The Framework for Character Education in Schools’ by The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, virtues are described as ‘the building blocks of character’. The grounding principle of character education is that when these building blocks are known about, understood, reasoned and put into practice, they result in the flourishing of individuals and society.

The framework goes on to say:

Virtues are empowering and are a key to fulfilling an individual’s potential… Because of the foundational role of the virtues in human flourishing, schools have a responsibility to cultivate the virtues, define and list those they want to prioritise and integrate them into all teaching and learning in and out of school.

The Framework for Character Education in Schools

Jubilee Centre, 2017

Ten Ten Resources and Virtue

This understanding of virtues and character education has been foundational to the creation of both our Collective Worship and Life to the Full (RSHE) programmes.

We predominantly work in Catholic primary and secondary schools who will be familiar with the term ‘Gospel values’, and who are growing in understanding and practice of what that means in the light of Virtue Education. Dr Christopher Devanny writes in a research article entitled Catholic Character Education:

The virtues are rooted in Christ. Human flourishing – the end to which the virtues aim, is beatitude. Understanding the ultimate end as sharing in God’s life means that the theological virtues and the interplay of the gifts of the Spirit with the virtues is a requirement for living life to the full.

Dr Christopher Devanny

Catholic Character Education

Coming soon: Free Resource on the Virtue of Temperance

In celebration of their 10th anniversary, The Jubilee Centre invited pitches for the opportunity to partner with them in creating character education resources inspired by different virtues. The London Oratory School were selected and, as long-time subscribers to Ten Ten’s Life to the Full programme, invited us to come on board to bring a new and exciting Key Stage 4 resource to life.

This non-religious resource about the virtue of temperance will be freely available to all secondary schools later in November. Watch this space or visit the Jubilee Centre website for further announcements!