News | 03 Jul 2019

Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education


Martin Luther King Jr was an extraordinary individual and he made an outstanding contribution to society at a time when leadership in the modern American Civil Rights movement was much needed.

He was an excellent leader because he had passion for the pursuit of equality for human beings, he had purpose in establishing a clear vision for what freedom and opportunity should look like and his dynamic agenda for change was crystallised by being intentional and deliberate on key principles and beliefs that people could relate to. Throw in the fact he was an amazing orator; Martin Luther King Jr had the capacity to take thousands of people with him on a powerful journey to address the important social ills around the world.

Amongst all his achievements, Martin Luther King Jr has given us one of the strongest definitions for the purpose and value of a quality education when he articulated:

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason but no morals. … We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” Martin Luther King Jr., Speech at Morehouse College, 1948

‘Intelligence plus character’ is the purpose of a quality education. Our goal is to sharpen intellects (scholarship), develop skills both in and outside of the classroom (excellence) and provide students with opportunities to know the difference between right from wrong and harness the dispositions to be resilient and handle adversity in a rapidly changing world (character).

In my first six months at Northholm, it has been a privilege to observe, celebrate and reward both the effort and achievement demonstrated by our students. Northholm is a busy and vibrant community that allows students to explore their talents and thrive in a learning environment that is based on rigour, a love of learning and high expectations. Some of these successes over the last six months have included:

  • Academic success in our senior and junior curriculum programs being recognised at assemblies, Education Perfect, the Northholm Awards; as well extension programs
  • Sporting success and involvement in Basketball, Swimming, Cross Country, Triathlons, Equestrian, Athletics, Gymnastics, Orienteering, Netball and Futsal
  • Drama success in ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ production and the Kangaroo Valley weekend
  • The Musical Showcase evening combined with the magical individual and collective musical performances
  • The thriving Duke of Edinburgh expeditions that take students out of their comfort zone in developing leadership, resilience and character
  • Our NGS Camp Program that seeks to provide opportunities for adventure, discovery and building relationships
  • ‘Servant Leadership’ at Northholm through the Year 11 leadership program which has included the Destiny Rescue Project culminating with the incredible Masquerade Dinner, as well as the numerous charity campaigns coordinated by our Senior/Junior students such as the Colour Run, the Relay for Life and the Jazz Café. Our students are committed to helping others through their generosity, integrity and respect.

The purpose of education is about the holistic development of our young men and women. Academic excellence (scholarship) is an important component of this narrative, however it must be strongly connected to the social, emotional, physical and spiritual development (Excellence and Character) of each person.

Isn’t it ironic that although our world is increasingly changing, we continue to return to the philosophical thinking of the past in terms of the true purpose of education? Martin Luther King Jr was exactly right when he said “Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education” … And those words are just as relevant and important today. You can’t have one without the other. Wishing all our students and families a relaxing and enjoyable holiday break.