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In a speech at Hillsdale, Pro­fessor of Edu­cation Jeffrey Lehman said humility, wisdom, and charity are essential for teachers in clas­sical edu­cation. Joe Toates | Courtesy

Assistant Pro­fessor of Edu­cation Jeffrey Lehman told stu­dents he planned to “begin with the end, put the beginning in the middle, and then end with the middle,” while explaining the virtues of a teacher on March 21 at an event hosted by the Hillsdale College Latin Teacher Program.

Lehman started the lecture by explaining the two aims of edu­cation: wisdom and charity. Seen as par­allel ends, he said, one has to do with the intellect — wisdom — and one with spir­itual for­mation — charity.

According to Lehman, wisdom in the clas­sical tra­dition plays a great role in the phi­losophy of edu­cation.

“Clas­sical edu­cation has a strong emphasis on order, the way one thing relates to another,” he said. “This impulse to order should be at the foun­dation but also at the ultimate end.”

This order is some­thing to which stu­dents should be con­stantly directed, and not just at the uni­versity level, Lehman said.

In the bib­lical tra­dition, wisdom becomes some­thing that con­cerns God,

“You seek it out as a way of under­standing God but also the world itself, dis­cerning structure in cre­ation,” Lehman said.

Lehman then went on to discuss the the­o­logical virtue of charity, which “is the para­mount virtue that colors and directs all other virtues.”.

Both wisdom and charity are the ends of edu­cation, according to Lehman. With that in mind, he dis­cussed the beginning of edu­cation: humility.

“I tend to make you talk, and I don’t talk as much. I try to elicit as much active par­tic­i­pating in the student as pos­sible,” Lehman said. “This is rooted in a notion of humility: having a measure or true opinion of the way things really are.”

Lehman said humility is important in teaching a student. A teacher should not dump “tremendous amounts of infor­mation on stu­dents,” he said.

“For both Aquinas and Augustine, the idea of learning is some­thing that happens in the soul of the student,” he said. “When the teacher does what he or she does best, they’re aiding the natural process.”

After beginning with humility, the teacher must be sus­tained in charity, according to Lehman.

“Notice the kind of interplay between humility and charity,” he said. “If you begin with humility and you’re sus­tained by charity, then it’s going to fend off the opposite of humility, which would be pride.”

What comes in the middle are many virtues, some of which, Lehman said, are mod­er­ation, courage, kindness, and per­se­verance.

“These are the kind of things we can model for our stu­dents and hope­fully encourage the stu­dents to hold them in their own souls as well,” he said.

In regards to mod­er­ation, Lehman explained the dangers that can come with excess.

“There’s a mod­erate way of pur­suing these things,” he said. “As the body can be worked to exhaustion, so too can the mind be spent. You don’t want those people around you to suffer because you lack mod­er­ation in the pursuit of your calling.”

Lehman made a point to mention the crucial nature of kindness in edu­cation.

“Kindness is one of the virtues that is largely lost in public dis­course today. I feel it part of my mission to rein­force it,” he said. “To treat another with kindness is fun­da­mental.”

Shelby Bar­gen­quast ’19, who plans on pur­suing a career in edu­cation, said the event was a good reminder of the virtues nec­essary for a ful­filling career, espe­cially in the first year of teaching.

“There are two very dif­ferent sides of edu­cation that we get here,” Bar­gen­quast said. “There’s dif­fi­culties and there’s a lot of hard work. There’s this other side where it’s this great, ful­filling, and joyful career, and you have to merge the two and know it’s going to be hard work but rewarding.”

Junior Joe Toates, who was in charge of the event, said Lehman’s talk was a good mix of the two sides of edu­cation.

“It was a really great mixture of broader phi­losophy of edu­cation as well as prac­tical dis­cus­sions of teachings and various struggles and strategies,” he said. “Lehman has talked in class about a lot of those dif­ferent virtues and how important it is to be willing to approach the class with humility — that you don’t know every­thing — and that’s OK.”