At The Stony Brook School, we pursue academic excellence, admission to prestigious colleges and universities, and preparation for meaningful and profitable careers. Our chief concern, however, is for the moral, intellectual, and spiritual growth of our students. Our curriculum and pedagogy, our residential life practices, and our mentoring and coaching aim at the development of good character. Without character, achievements are empty and meaningless. Our motto “Character Before Career” articulates a principle at the heart of our School identity, a principle that sets us apart from other schools of our caliber.
What is a virtue? A virtue is a quality that allows something to achieve its proper end or to fulfill its specific function. Specifically human virtues are habits of thought, feeling, and action that enable a human being to flourish individually and contribute to the common good. Specifically Christian virtues are gifts of God that enable us to enjoy right relationship with God, fulfill God's calling on our lives, and with the Church, build his Kingdom. There are many virtues, but we have decided to focus on the traditional core virtues as a school: love, hope, faith, wisdom, justice, temperance, and courage. Vices, by contrast, are qualities that, while tempting, ultimately lead human beings away from their true end, with the result often being the destruction of their own lives and the lives of those around them. At Stony Brook, in our classes and in our chapel program, we help students identify and resist the capital vices: pride, vainglory, envy, wrath, sloth, avarice, gluttony, and lust.
Many schools are committed to the ideals of character education, but very few intentionally design their school to cultivate moral and intellectual virtue. At Stony Brook, character education permeates every aspect of our school. We believe character is formed through the following:
Exposure to compelling moral exemplars - Not only do we hire men and women of character to serve on our faculty and staff, but we also have developed a curriculum that purposely focuses on a core virtue in each grade. We know that students will imitate that which they love, and so we put before them teachers who will inspire them towards holiness and also teach them to analyze characters in texts and historical figures using the conceptual framework of the virtues and the vices. We challenge them to relate the good and bad moral decisions in the texts they study to their own lives, so the scholarly and the pragmatic synchronize and enhance one another.
Intentional discipleship - Our teachers, coaches, dorm parents, and advisors make sure every student is known and loved. We meet with students regularly during advisory lunches, chapel services, extra help sessions, and dorm prayer to help them discover who God has created them to be and give them advice on how to grow in virtue and resist the vices.
Formative community practices - In our classrooms, in chapel, at workjob, at meals, on the weekend, and in the dorm, we have developed community habits that cultivate a love of serving others, a spirit of gratitude, and a desire for wisdom. Each grade learns practices that help to cultivate the core virtues of their grade in their Character in Action mini-courses. 7th graders learn how to be courageous when they are tempted to fear. 8th graders learn temperance while on a wilderness adventure. 9th graders learn to see injustice on "vision trips" and then learn to practice justice on service trips. 10th graders grow in self-knowledge by taking the Highlands Ability Battery and then learn how to make wise decisions about their present and future. 11th graders learn to love through serving the poor, and 12th graders cuitivate hope in a course designed to promote joyful service in places where apathy is so tempting.
God's gracious and transformative love - We recognize that without God's grace working in the hearts and minds of young people, we can do nothing. We rely on God, praying regularly for our students and for guidance as we develop plans. "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1a).
Cultivating virtue in the 21st century requires wisdom and imagination - the wisdom to know what is eternally true, and good, and beautiful, and the imagination to dream up strategies for inspiring Generation Z towards justice, courage, and love when their culture is telling them to focus on themselves, to put their hope in technology, and to do whatever feels good. At the Brook, we know that character is more than a buzz word. True character education is counter-cultural.
To that end, in the coming years, we will be forming a Character Advisory Council made up of scholars of virtue and leaders of character. The council will advise us as we continue to expand and fine-tune our program.
“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” - C.S. Lewis