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Virtuous Educational Research

Conversations on Ethical Practice


Julian Stern

This is a book of conversations with researchers working across Europe, the USA and Africa. It aims to illuminate the lived reality of educational research on a wide variety of topics, including family life in rural South Africa, support for self-harming students in the UK, character development in the USA and Korea, educational leadership in the UK and China, philosophical analysis of education policy, and much more.
The book is for and about researchers and is built around a set of conversations with the author – a fellow researcher. Researchers work at the frontiers of our knowledge and understanding of the world, and frontiers can be dangerous places. How are the researchers’ personal qualities – virtues such as courage, honesty and kindness – tested and exemplified in their work? The conversations presented here explore the experience of research and ask what qualities are needed, or wished for, in order to successfully face its challenges. There are many books that include lists of what to do and what not to do when carrying out research. Here, in contrast, we find out what really happens and why – and what it takes to keep going.
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Chapter 1 Introduction: From Ethics to Virtues


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Introduction: From Ethics to Virtues

Remembering Virtue

My brother-in-law, John D’Albert, is suffering from dementia as a result of Pick’s disease. He didn’t lose words at first, but decision-making skills. Gradually, many cognitive skills have left him, and now there are almost no words left. However, in his actions, in his physicality, he demonstrates so many of his continuing personal qualities, his personal strengths, including his kindness and his helpfulness. These are retained, even as he doesn’t know how to do things, even as his physical control is disappearing. From John, I’m getting a very different feel about what his, what our, virtues are. His every action is kind and thoughtful, without him having the ability to talk about or understand what he is doing. How embodied virtues and personality are: it’s striking. John’s illness has coincided with the development and writing of this book, and he has contributed the idea that, whatever else may be forgotten, virtues are personal characteristics that can be retained. Virtues are more central to personhood than knowledge, and are more embodied than what might be stated as our values or beliefs.

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