Site menu:


April 2017 Brief: Volume 24, Number 11

  Click Here for a pdf version.

The Virtues of Individual Learning


by Jerry Hopkins, Ph.D.



Education involves people, primarily teachers and students. Of course, there are other people associated with education in addition to these primary participants: taxpayers, parents, administrators, janitors, coaches, counselors, tutors, lunch ladies, volunteers, and friends. For many years, I have been engaged in education. I have taught elementary, middle school, high school, college/university, and seminary students. Over the years, I have earned over 370 semester hours of credit, resulting in three degrees: a B.A. and an M.A. from Eastern Kentucky University and a Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky. These details are shared to let you know that I do not speak or write as a novice, out of ignorance, or without experience.


Education is not primarily about buildings, technology, money, curriculum, or programs. It is about people relating to one another in positive and productive ways. People engaged in education should connect three things: visions, virtues, and victories. The best way to illustrate this connection is in a life. I believe education is best when it is personal, establishing and benefiting from dynamic relationships, conversations, and collective research.


There are many terms that arise in academe that we ought to learn the significance and the vital meanings of. Terms such as “the humanities,” “art,” and “science” become the official designations of some academic divisions. We recognize them only organizationally or institutionally, and as a result they lose their primary meanings and crucial significance. I was prompted to consider this reality by an essay on “Teaching the Art of Being Human” that appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education. This article establishes the virtue of education associated with the humanities and humaneness. We need to learn about, and enjoy the victories of, each individual student, especially those with special needs like Trey Hammond, whom I wrote about last month. Most of all, we need to learn that such victories are based firmly on the virtues of individual learning.


Education as an institutional initiative is often shaped by the practical emphasis on what students can learn and experience that will help them earn a better wage so they can meet life’s expenses and pay their taxes. In the debates that often arise over what is best for the brightest and most ambitious, the classes labeled “humanities” usually lose more ground, with mathematics and the sciences gaining support. In addition to these debates, there has also emerged the meddling of Legislatures demanding that schools prove they are really educating their students. This, of course, had led to a bonanza for the corporations producing tests and academic evaluations.


The principle of “follow the money” needs to be applied in this regard, but what one finds in this process is that students are the ones who suffer and education is beginning to cost much more yet accomplish much less. Racial relations are at their worst, the economy is at its weakest, unemployment is at its highest in decades, education is continuing to plummet, morals and honesty are continuing to erode, and government is becoming more intrusive and abusive. America has changed because the good people have not stood together, united and empowered by God, to say what Baptist preacher Rick Scarborough said in 2008: “Enough is enough!” In our world, we need humane — caring, kind, gentle, good — people. After all, isn’t this what true education is all about — not buildings, budgets, money, or tests?


Dr. Jerry Hopkins is a retired history professor and a freelance columnist living in Marshall, TX. Contact him at


Permission to reprint or copy in whole or part is granted, provided a version of this credit line is used:"Reprinted by permission from INSTITUTE BRIEF, a publication of Public Interest Institute." The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and not necessarily those of Public Interest Institute. They are brought to you in the interest of a better-informed citizenry.




All of our publications are available for sponsorship.  Sponsoring a publication is an excellent way for you to show your support of our efforts to defend liberty and define the proper role of government.  For more information, please contact Public Interest Institute at