Can Education Teach Us a Virtue like Integrity?

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Despite all the degrees and specialized education that we all have, we find it difficult to deal with drudgery or mundane monotonous work. We all have this great ability to get bored with anything and everything very easily.

No, we do not believe in giving anyone elaborate sermons or a pail full of advice. We just wish to share a few thoughts with all of you because they often occur to us when we interact with youngsters of all ages:

Academic education in itself teaches us a virtue like working hard:

We spend hours memorizing details and formulae and definitions in order to score great grades. We use different techniques to deal with different subjects.

This system of education is often applauded and appreciated the world over because it gradually cultivates values like:

Focussing on the task at hand.

Patience. What we learned yesterday is out of our memory today. So we get down to revising the same topic again.

A creative approach to making a dull, boring subject interesting.

Doing things that simply need to be done – whether we like it or not. We learn a beautiful trait like DUTY.

These two factors prepare us for times when we simply need to slog it out. We realize that shortcuts don’t always work. Boring work, drudgery and mundane tasks are a part of our workday lives.

Appreciating subjects that we do not excel at. When youngsters are exposed to as many as 10 subjects in a year – they quickly realize that they are passionate about some subjects and hopeless cases in some subjects. They then smartly team up with other students to complement their weaknesses. They then learn useful techniques to master the subjects from them.

Knowing where they stand amidst a crowd. This teaches them humility. They may be the apple of their parents’ eyes – but in school, the youngster may be an above average student like several other students his age.

These are just some intangible elements of our education system which makes our students work hard to achieve some tangible form of success.

The minute these students step out into the real world- they realize that all their textbook knowledge cannot be applied on a practical basis.

They come across phrases like – work smart – don’t work hard. Initially, this perplexes them. Slowly they try to implement it while they are working in their offices.

The work smart philosophy is actually practical education:

Knowledge may help us secure a job. But practical education teaches us how to work in a team setting. The work smart philosophy teaches us values like:

  • Communicating effectively.
  • Time management.
  • Team co- ordination.
  • Seeing the bigger picture.
  • Responsibility and accountability.

Crisis management. This is where the work smart philosophy actually works well. In a crisis, we capitalize on the strengths and weaknesses of our team. We simply learn to think on our feet and take the initiative. This means accepting total responsibility for all our decisions. It also means delegating tasks to other capable and reliable team members. Work smart means using our common sense to get the best possible results in the shortest possible time. That is what crisis management is all about.

Being calm and cool and unruffled during a crisis. Thinking with a confident cool mind is not a trait that we will master overnight. Such values can come only with years of experience. Academic education exposes us to this kind of stress during exams. And the work smart philosophy simply takes it forward to a practical level.

Two beautiful aspects of work –work hard and work smart. Both these concepts are required at different stages in our work profile. But sadly quite a few youngsters misinterpret this phrase. To them a work smart philosophy means:

Taking short cuts to secure grades.

Outsourcing practical learning projects to professional experts in the market.

Doing just enough work in the office to get by.

That list can be endless. That is not the point of the article. What we wish to reiterate here is that education basically refines our thinking and equips us with a set of ethics.

There will be times when time is our prime priority. In such cases, delegating tasks to others frees up our precious time so that we can focus on things that are more important at that point of time.

There will be times when a particular task needs our specialized skill set and our total focus. We simply cannot afford to delegate such tasks to people who are not as experienced or mature as us. And at such times, we need to slog it out by working long hours.

Look at the leaders who head organizations. They balance their knowledge with their practical experience to get the results that they visualize. They work extended hours when there is a crisis and will refuse to budge till the problem is solved. And at other times, they will use the work smart philosophy to keep the team in working order.

While a blend of working hard and working smart is required at different times of our career – what is more important is working effectively.

The quality of our work suffers due to the numerous constant distractions that ping on our smartphones. All the academic and practical education that we have derived in our growing up years is of no use, if we do not know how to overcome our addiction to social media pages and updates.

The virtual world is most definitely not equal to the real world. The sooner we realize this hard hitting fact –the greater will be our effectivity and our progress.

Working effectively means overcoming the ‘Just chill attitude!’ another cool misinterpretation of the smart work philosophy. We feel we are smart if we are able to do just enough to get by in our work day every day. People in every and any organization pay us a salary in return for some kind of quality work which is done in a timely manner.

There are no free lunches out there in this big beautiful world. Misusing the work smart philosophy to hide our lackadaisical attitude will not take us very far in the long run. Such people are quickly identified in an organization and are shown the door without a second thought.

True isn’t it? It does not matter which aspect of education we choose to find solutions to our professional challenges. As long as we work effectively and ethically all our academic or practical education will be worth it. But all the knowledge in the entire world is of no use to us if we do not know how to earn our livelihood with integrity. Can education teach us a virtue like integrity?

By |2017-05-04T16:38:27+00:00May 4th, 2017|Inspiration, Philosophy for Youth|2 Comments


  1. Aimee September 9, 2017 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    Well, first things first. To answer the question on the title, yes. Education can teach us the virtue of integrity, but not necessarily in the school setting. God knows, we are limited in the confines of those four walls. True, that what we learn in school in mostly about working hard. But education doesn’t stop there. Our whole life is an education in itself. And it educates us the virtue of integrity and so much more.
    In college, I had taken an industrial engineering course and what our professors always told us is to work smart instead of work smart. And true enough, when I entered the “real” world, people who work smart are almost always on top of the corporate ladder. They always outshine those who just work hard because they are more efficient; and in turn, they are more effective in their field.
    It is also true that working smart is often mistaken as taking shortcuts, but it isn’t really true. Those of us who work smartly are just people who go beyond our job descriptions in the shortest time because we have already deducted those unnecessary elements needed to perform our jobs. We are more into Lean Management.

  2. Ogeto Omwancha October 11, 2017 at 10:47 am - Reply

    Great and insightful article regarding the impact of education on our Lives. It is true that schools that teach character education report higher academic performance, improved attendance, reduced violence, fewer disciplinary issues, reduction in substance abuse, and less vandalism. At a time when parents and teachers are concerned about school violence, it is worth noting that students who attend character education schools report feeling safer because they know their fellow students value respect, responsibility, compassion and hard work. From a practical perspective, it’s simply easier to teach children who can exercise patience, self-control, and diligence, even when they would rather be playing outside – especially when they would rather be playing outside. Integrity is adhering to moral principle, being faithful to moral conscience, keeping our word, and standing up for what we believe. To have integrity is to be “whole,” so that what we say and do in different situations is consistent rather than contradictory. Integrity is different from honesty, which tells the truth to others. Integrity is telling the truth to oneself. “The most dangerous form of deception,” says author Josh Billings, “is self-deception.” Self-deception enables us to do whatever we wish and find a reason to justify our actions. Whether virtue, or the more modern concepts of integrity and ethics, can really be taught has been a matter of debate for millennia. Most philosophy scholars agree that by the time we hit our 20s, the extent of our integrity has for the most part been established. What they can and should do is give students the skills development to deal with sticky situations and to build business systems that minimize the opportunity and temptation to behave unethically.

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