Bernardo M. Villegas
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The Fourth and Fifth Rs

          Especially in this era of knowledge-intensive industries, every child has to learn his or her three R’s:  Reading, Riting and Rithmetic.  As he or she grows older, the three Rs metaphormose into the liberal arts or the humanities.  The three Rs for adolescents and young adults help them sharpen their skills of critical thinking, effective communication in both writing and speaking and the ability to relate one human discipline to another.  A minimum of exposure to the STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) subject will prepare them for the digital revolution that is invading every single occupation or profession.   There is no guarantee, however, that the three Rs at the various levels of primary, secondary and tertiary education will produce men and women of character.  Dr. Thomas Lickona, a development psychologist and professor of education emeritus at the State University of New York at Cortland will help Philippine educators and parents to answer a very important question when he visits Manila and Davao on October 9 and 12, respectively.  The question is: “Can schools, while they have students in their charge, make an observable difference in their character—the degree to which they know, love, and do the good?”  His answer, backed up by decades of experiences in character education in the United States, is affirmative.  He categorically states; Good schools, like good families, do make a difference.  That is a source of hope as we face the formidable challenge of renewing our moral culture.  We cannot be resigned to having the millennials and centennials inevitably joining the “Snowflake generation,” individuals who have an inflated sense of uniqueness, an unwarranted sense of entitlement and easily offended with opinions opposing theirs.  People without character have a belligerent sense of entitlement.  Respect and Responsibility are effective antidotes to the snowflake culture.

         Dr. Lickona founded the Center for 4th and 5th Rs based in the State of University of New York.  To him, the 4th and 5th Rs are Respect and Responsibility.    These two-character traits summarize the content of a good character which is made up of ten essential virtues which are recognized and taught by nearly all philosophical, religious and cultural traditions.   We shall enumerate here the ten essential virtues specified in Dr. Lickona’s book entitled Character Matters: How to Help Our Children Develop Good Judgement, Integrity and Other Essential Virtues.  The first is Wisdom, the master virtue, the one that directs all the others.  It enable us to make reasoned decisions that are both good for us and good for others.  The second is Justice, which means respecting the rights of all persons.  Schools, in their character education efforts, often center on justice because it includes so many of the interpersonal virtues—civility, honesty, respect, responsibility, and tolerance (correctly understood as respect for the freedom of conscience of others as long as they do not violate the rights of others).  The third is Fortitude which enables us to do what is right in the face of difficulty.  Courage, resilience, patience, perseverance, endurance and a healthy self-confidence are all aspects of fortitude.

         The fourth is Self-Control, the ability to govern ourselves.  This virtue enables us to control our temper, regulate our sensual appetites and passions, and pursue even legitimate pleasures in moderation.  It is the power to resist temptation, to wait, and to delay gratification in the pursuit of higher and distant goals.  The fifth is Love, which goes beyond justice.  The virtue of love encompasses such other important human virtues as empathy, compassion, kindness, generosity, service, loyalty, patriotism (love of what is noble in one’s country) and forgiveness.  The sixth is a Positive Attitude.  This includes such human virtues as hope, enthusiasm, flexibility, and a sense of humor.  One who has a negative attitude in life is a burden to oneself and others.  A famous quote from Abraham Lincoln stresses the importance of a positive attitude for attaining earthly happiness: “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” The seventh is Hard Work, work being the very reason why the Creator made man unto his image:  in order to work.  Hard work includes the human virtues off initiative, diligence, goal-setting and resourcefulness.

         The eighth is Integrity which means adhering to moral principles, being faithful to moral conscience, keeping our word, and standing for what we believe.  Honesty is telling the truth to others.  Integrity is telling the truth to oneself.  The worst form of lying is to lie to oneself, to indulge in self-deception.  A most effective means to attain integrity is the habit of daily examination of one’s conscience in the presence of God who can neither deceive nor be deceived.  The ninth essential virtue is Gratitude which is often described as the secret of a happy life.  The writer Anne Husted Burleigh observes, “Gratitude, like love, is not a feeling but an act of the will.  We choose to be thankful, just as we choose to love.”  As Pope Francis advises us, the phrase that should always be on our lips is “Thank You,” together with “Please,” and “I’m sorry!”  Finally, the tenth essential virtue is humility, which can be considered the foundation of the whole moral life.  Humility is necessary for the acquisition of the other virtues because it makes us aware of our imperfections and leads us to try to become a better person. The humble person is willing to begin and begin again in his struggle to be virtuous.

           Dr. Lickona does not stop in enumerating the essential virtues.  From his experiences and those of his colleagues in character formation, he will suggest ten very practical strategies for educators and parents to promote the virtues.  He will be the main speaker in the forthcoming International Conference on Fostering Kindness and Respect in School and at Home (Developing Character for Success).  The one scheduled for Wednesday, October 9 will be held at the University of Asia and the Pacific and the one in Davao City on Saturday, October 12 at the Malayan Colleges Mindanao Auditorium in Davao City.  Those interested in attending any one of these conferences can email  For comments, my email address is