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The Virtues of Educational Community

Parker J. Palmer

In his book The Courage to Teach, Parker Palmer says that the great things that we study, "the genes and ecosystems of biology, the symbols and referents of philosophy and theology, the archetypes of betrayal and forgiveness and loving and loss that are the stuff of literature," evoke from us "certain virtues that give educational community its finest form." He identifies these virtues as follows:
  • We invite diversity into our community not because it is politically correct but because diverse viewpoints are demanded by the mysteries of great things.

  • We embrace ambiguity not because we are confused or indecisive but because we understand the inadequacy of our concepts to embrace the vastness of great things.

  • We welcome creative conflict not because we are angry or hostile but because conflict is required to correct our biases and prejudices about the nature of great things.

  • We practice honesty not only because we owe it to one another but because to lie about what we have seen would be to betray the truth of great things.

  • We experience humility not because we have fought and lost but because humility is the only lens through which great things can be seen--and once we have seen them, humility is the only posture possible.

  • We become free men and women through education not because we have privileged information but because tyranny in any form can be overcome only by invoking the grace of great things.
In order to develop the fine educational comunity Palmer describes, I challenge us all to embrace and practice these virtues as we pursue our study of literature this term.

John D. Tatter, Birmingham-Southern College,