Learning at Montrose

Intellectual and Character Virtues

Overview of Intellectual Virtues*

Intellectual Virtue
(Habits of a good thinker, student, inquirer)
Curiosity A disposition to wonder, ponder, and ask why. A thirst for understanding and a desire to explore. 
Intellectual humility A willingness to own up to one’s intellectual limitations and mistakes. Unconcerned with intellectual status or prestige. 
Intellectual autonomy A capacity for active, self-directed thinking. An ability to think and reason for oneself.
Attentiveness A readiness to stay focused and on task. Notices and attends to important details. 
Intellectual carefulness A sensitivity to the requirements of good thinking. Quick to notice and avoid intellectual pitfalls and mistakes. 
Intellectual thoroughness A willingness to probe for deeper meaning and understanding. Unsatisfied with mere appearances or easy answers. 
Open-mindedness An ability to think outside the box. Gives a fair and honest hearing to competing perspectives. 
Intellectual courage A readiness to persist in thinking or communicating in the face of fear, including fear of embarrassment or failure. 
Intellectual tenacity A willingness to embrace intellectual challenge and struggle. Keeps its “eyes on the prize” and doesn’t give up. 

*These categories were adapted from the Intellectual Virtues Academy (IVA), Long Beach, CA

Overview of Character Virtues*

Prudence (Good Judgment)
  • Respect for learning and intellectual accomplishment - "culture"
  • Understanding of human nature and life experience: motivations, values, and priorities in life.
  • Habit of considering the past causes and future implications of present events and circumstances.
  • Ability to recognize the good, the true, and the beautiful and to discern these from the evil, the false, and the sordid.
  • Powers of moral and intellectual discernment - ability to distinguish (partial list):
    • Sacrifice (purposeful effort) from drudgery (pointless effort)
    • Responsible spirit of service from immature egoism
    • True friends from acquaintances and accomplices
    • Conscience from feelings
    • Love from eroticism
    • Healthy self-respect from hubristic pride
    • Calculated risk taking from impulsiveness
    • Team collaboration from selfish individualism
Justice (Responsibility)
  • Acknowledging and respecting the rights of others-the basis for our duties and obligations
  • Habit of doing our duties, whether we feel like it or not
  • Respect for rightful authority - the right to be obeyed
  • Living with the consequences of our decisions and mistakes, including neglect
  • Refusal to see oneself as a victim
  • Habit of honoring our promises and commitments even when this involves self-sacrifice
  • Habit of minding our own business, staying out of matters that do not concern us
  • Refraining from gossip and rash judgment - giving people the benefit of the doubt  
Fortitude (Personal Courage) 
  • Acquired ability to overcome or endure difficulties, including pain, inconvenience, disappointment, setbacks and worry
  • Habit of overcoming anxiety through purposeful, honorable action
  • Attitude of seeing escape as something unworthy, even dishonorable
  • Realization that “anticipation” is usually worse than “reality”
  • Confidence in problem-solving abilities, built through practice in solving problems.
  • Determination in overcoming personal shortcomings. If we are shy, we learn to be friendly and a “good listener”. If we are impulsive, we practice restraint and reflect on consequences. If we are lazy, we strive toward purposeful action. If we do not understand something, we make an effort to study it.
 Temperance (Self Mastery)
  • Acquired ability to say "no" to ourselves and mean it
  • Habit of waiting for rewards - and earning them
  • Enjoying pleasures and good such as food, drink, entertainment, even work in moderation
  • Lifelong habit of saying (and meaning), “Please,” “Thank You,” “I’m sorry,” and “I give you my word”
  • Habit of living courtesy and using good manners toward everyone, without exception, and doing this even in the face of rudeness or provocation
  • In a word “class”: self-restraint, etiquette, healthy self-respect, active concern for the dignity and needs of all around us, and active spirit of service
Some “Life Lessons” Young People Need to Learn
  • A shortcut to personal happiness: forget about your ego and give yourself generously to serving the needs of those around you, starting with your family.
  • Love is not just sweet sentiments. It is really willingness and ability to undergo sacrificial difficulties for the sake of the welfare and happiness of others. In a sense, love is sacrifice.
  • Hard work without some ideal is just drudgery; hard work with some ideal becomes noble, adventurous sacrifice.
  • Popularity is not so important as respect. If you strive too hard to have people like you, they probably won’t. But if you strive to win their respect, then they will both like and respect you. (All respect comes from perception of strength.)
  • If you have self-respect, you will win the respect of others.
  • Nobody respects a liar, a gossip, a cynic, or a whiner. If you act like one, people may temporarily find you amusing, but they will mistrust you and hold you without honor.
  • Never make promises lightly, and when you make them, you must keep your word.
  • Sometimes it requires more wisdom to take good advice than to give it.
  • Character is what you have left over if you ever go broke.
  • The real riches in life are family, friends, health, and a good conscience. Everything else is gravy.
*From James Stenson, author and educational consultant
An independent school for girls in grades 6-12
Inspired by the teachings of the Catholic Church