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 a contempt of danger; nor shrewdness but frankness and a love of truth; not tact but love for one’s neighbour and self-denial; not a desire for success but a desire to be and to know.
Usually we do just the opposite; 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 Fortune’s blows.
That is from Nathalie Ginzburg, from her book The Little Virtues. Here is a copy of the essay (pdf). Discovering Ginzburg over the last few weeks has been a revelation for me; she is surely one of the more underrated writers. Here is Bookslut on Ginzburg.