The Little Virtues

As far as the education of children is concerned I think they should be taught not the little virtues but the great ones. Not thrift but generosity and an indifference to money, not caution but courage and contempt for danger: nor shrewdness but frankness and a love of the truth; not tact but love for one’s neighbour and self-deniel; Not at desire for success but a desire to be and to know.

We rush to teach them a respect for the little virtues, on which we build our whole system of education. In doing this we are choosing the easiest way. Because the little virtues do not involve any actual dangers, indeed they provide shelter from fortunes blow. We do not bother to teach the great virtues, though we love them and want our children to have them: but we nourish the hope that they will spontaneously appear in their future we think of them as being part of our instinctive nature, while the other, the little virtues seem to be a result of reflection and calculation and so we think that they absolutely must be taught.

Natalia Ginzburg – The Little Virtues