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Why Character Is More Important Than Intelligence

Schooling Society

        As the world surges forward, educators around the world struggle to match their own skills with the increasing pace at which children are embracing technology. Parents and schools realise that this new generation of children will have to be smarter, sharper and quicker than generations before them. As social media and web communities continue to connect people in an unprecedented manner, highly intelligent people become even more highly sought after.

        What does this mean for educators and parents? How can we prepare our students and children for life in this new world?  Educators and parents recognise that it is critical for children to have a strong foundation in their studies. However, not everyone is convinced that a child’s character is equally if not more important.

        Why then is a person’s character more important than intelligence when intelligence is so highly valued and made more ‘visible’ in this digital age? The answer to this question may be surprisingly simple. Unless artificial intelligence takes over the world completely, the human race thrives because people need to cooperate and live in harmony. Families thrive because of the relationships that have developed over time. Business organisations rise when people come together to get things done.  As Simon Sinek, a high profile TED Talk speaker argues in his best seller ‘Start With The Why’, people are inspired to work together when they understand why they are doing what they do. Sharing common values and goals motivate people to work together to achieve their dreams. It is these same positive values that gives a person ‘good’ character.

        Young people crave to join Facebook, Alibaba and Google not merely because of the financial benefits. They crave to join companies that are perceived to be brave and inspirational. Young people join organisations that reflect their own aspirations. Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, outstanding and innovative companies, big and small, look for people who share the same positive values.

        Dynamic companies look for more than  a person’s intelligence. What they look for is character. Cutting edge companies in every industry headhunt for people who have lots of initiative, drive and the desire to excel. They look for team players who put the organisation’s interest before their own self interest. They look for people who work hard and who thrive on contributing and making a difference. They headhunt for people who set high standards for themselves. Typically, such people have a positive value system that gives them ‘good’ character. 

        The importance of a person’s character is constantly revealed in so many instances. Elitist and famous schools attract parents because of the potential ‘good connection’ factor. In reality, what kind of people continue their relationships long after they have left school? How do school friendships develop into business deals? These deeper connections happen because of authentic friendships and such friendships are rarely forged with people who have bad character. 

        What can educators and parents do to help our students and children develop good character? Firstly, we have to be of good character ourselves. There is no alternative. The actions and words of adults should reflect certain values. Some of these values include the following :-

  1. Honesty – being honest with others and with ourselves
  2. Integrity – believing in a core set of moral values and living your life according to those values
  3. Humility – staying humble despite achieving great success and recognition
  4. Compassion – having deep empathy for others
  5. Generosity of spirit – to have the desire to share and to help others
  6. Loyalty – being faithful and dedicated to people with whom we have a relationship with
  7. Responsibility – to be accountable to others and more importantly to ourselves when we take on commitments
  8. Reliability – to be dependable and to practise what we preach
  9. Self-discipline – to have the will power to complete whatever task that we have set out to do

        Lastly but not least, parents and educators nurture children best when they do what they feel is best for the child and not so much for themselves. That would then be a true test of character.

By Melina Tan
Programme Director of The Schooling Society Pte Ltd

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