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“There are seasons, in human affairs, of inward and outward revolution, when new depths seem to be broken up in the soul, when new wants are unfolded in multitudes, and a new and undefined good is thirsted for. There are periods when…to dare, is the highest wisdom.”
There is perhaps no magic that turns dreams into reality like courage. Courage is a human virtue that keeps society growing, adapting, evolving and becoming better. Yet education in my homeland robs us of this nobility instead of enduring us with such. How well is courage taught or how deliberate should we be in passing this gem through education? These are the concluding thoughts we provoke in this part of the Education Overhaul series.
Courage is the ability to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation. It is one noble virtue admired all through time and it is surely the foundation for all forms of good or bad. Winston Churchill in an insight put it this way, “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities … because it is the quality that guarantees all others”. The character trait of fear, giving up in the times of pain, avoidance of danger, avoiding a course in a maze and absolute lack of confidence for intimidation has become a ‘normal’ description of the African. To make it more unfortunate we confuse such cowardice with humility and call it cautiousness.
Confidence should at least be the most notable scare education leaves on a person. The time when the African youth became confident is long overdue, it is time we broke the fear, pain, danger, uncertainty and intimidation of poverty, disease, superstition, cultural limitation, unemployment, western influence, political biases and corruption and rose in courage to tell a new African story. A story of courage and progress, one of innovation and initiatives and of drive and results.
We consider Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman’s four subcategory of courage and draw key educational lesson from it below:
- Bravery: It is defined by Peterson as “the ability to stand up for what is right in difficult situations.” He then goes ahead and puts bravery in several forms: Physical bravery involves acting in spite of possible harm to one’s body. Moral bravery involves acting in a way that enhances what one believes to be good in spite of social disapproval and possible backlash. A third, theoretically newer, definition of bravery is psychological bravery which involves things such as overcoming one’s own addictive habits, irrational anxieties, and harmful dependent relationships. Our educational content should be placed in a context of promoting bravery. What we need are minds and hearts strong enough to solve the problems and not just to talk it. Our educational system must make sure it produces such bravery because there is no doubt such unconfident youth is a product of the current system.
- Perseverance: Perseverance involves the ability to seek a goal in spite of obstacles and perhaps failure. A person high in perseverance is able to overcome the fear and intimidation of low self-esteem and estimations that one cannot do the task as well as discouragement from peers. This is where our educator will have to focus at producing finishers and not just starters. It only takes courage to be persevering and our education must endeavor to train student to be persevering and not unstable, emotional people as the case barely is now.
- Honesty: Honesty and authenticity as a subset of courage means more than simply telling the truth. It involves integrity in all areas of one’s life and the ability to be true to oneself and one’s role in the world across circumstances. Honesty and authenticity require a great deal of courage. I have wondered time and over again why corruption is always labeled as Africa’s biggest developmental problem? This may provide a clue to how courageous our leaders are! Honesty is not an option if a group of people must grow and develop, it is a prerequisite and we must see it as such and educate ourselves with the intent of becoming honest to ourselves and to society.
- Zest: Seligman and Peterson finally consider Zest as a character trait of courage and defines zest as, feeling alive, being full of zest, and displaying enthusiasm for any and all activities. They believe Zest most often comes forth as a character strength in the midst of trying circumstances which is mostly true. When there are shiver across the spines, it takes courage to posses your energies and seek change. We must therefore train people to posses energies that are strong enough to tear down the walls of cowardice.
Let me end with a quote from David Humes who was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist and essayist from his part I, essay XXI titled, Of National Characters (1758), “Courage, of all national qualities, is the most precarious; because it is exerted only at intervals, and by a few in every nation; whereas industry, knowledge, civility, may be of constant and universal use, and for several ages, may become habitual to the whole people.” The delicate yet important nature of this virtue makes it imminent to be guarded and taught. The Eagles’ Wing Foundation stands for this cause of educating and guarding such treasures but it is more of all our collective effort and thus we invite you to take the task of courage as your personal charge. Always keep yourself in remembrance that, Victory goes to those with courage!
Let’s bear the torch of faith and courage through our time. Let our own acts of courage inspire others to hold onto theirs and together let us build a new continent, for, “Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.” William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act II, scene. ii (1599).