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Conference Targets a New Approach to Education

teacher-classroom1Top scholars in education, philosophy, and psychology will gather at Loyola Marymount University for the first-of-its-kind conference on the importance of teaching intellectual character and intellectual virtues in schools on Friday, June 21 and Saturday, June 22.

Intellectual virtues are the character traits of a good thinker or learner. They include curiosity, open-mindedness, attentiveness, creativity, intellectual humility, and intellectual perseverance. The conference will explore these traits, why they are important to education, and what it looks like in the classroom when you educate to encourage these traits.

“It’s the first event of its kind and it has attracted internationally renowned figures in education, philosophy, and psychology,” said Jason Baehr, a philosophy professor at LMU’s Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts who organized the conference.

“I think there’s a general sense that the present focus on high-stakes, standardized testing, and the ‘teaching to the test’ that inevitably ensues, has led to a depersonalization of the learning process,” Baehr said. “I hope the conference will jump-start an even broader national conversation about intellectual virtues and education.”

The conference is part of the Intellectual Virtues Education Project that was launched by Baehr last year with a $1 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

Part of the money, $429,000, was used for workshops and seminars to develop the first intellectual virtues-based educational model and to train about 15 junior high and high school teachers to use it. The remainder of the money, $621,000, is being used to launch the Intellectual Virtues Academy charter school in the Bixby Knolls area of Long Beach, which will open this fall with two sixth-grade classes with about 25 students in each.

School organizers have hired a principal and are in the process of hiring two teachers and finalizing the curriculum.  The school will have its first parent/teacher meeting in the next few weeks. Organizers hope to add seventh- and eighth-grade classes over the next two years.

Keynote speakers for the conference include Shari Tishman, direct and principal investigator for Harvard University’s Project Zero, which explores ways to inspire creative thinking in students and teachers; Marvin Berkowitz, the inaugural Sanford N. McDonnell Endowed Professor of Character Education and co-director of the Center for Character and Citizenship at the University of Missouri-St. Louis; Linda Zagzebski, the George Lynn Cross Research Professor of Philosophy and Kingfisher College Chair in the Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at the University of Oklahoma; and Harvey Siegel, professor of philosophy at the University of Miami.

The conference is open to the public and pre-registration is strongly encouraged. Registration is $25 and includes two lunches, a dinner, and a reception. For more information and to register for the event, go to http://intellectualvirtues.org/conference/.

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