I thought I would start a series of letters on thoughts around education. Hopefully you will find this interesting and, as always, feel free to correspond with me if you have any comments or thoughts yourself that initiate from these articles.
There are many educational models that have been developed. These models are well known and highlight the importance of integrating knowledge with skills. However, there are models that are now stressing the importance of education for character.
What is character education?
This is the teaching of core values. There are 6 identified “pillars” of character education. These are: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. The Bay Academy will strive to nurture these values.
In his book, The Educated Child, William J. Bennett writes, “Good character education means cultivating virtues through formation of good habits.” According to Bennett, children need to learn through actions that honesty and compassion are good, and that deceit and cruelty are bad. He believes that adults in schools and parents should strive to be models of good character.
Character education includes having high standards for students’ academic success, too. “When they are challenged to work up a mental sweat, they learn about virtues such as industry and persistence,” writes Bennett. “When students rarely get homework, when they aren’t held accountable for mistakes in spelling or grammar or arithmetic, when they can put forth little effort but still earn high grades, schools foster laziness, carelessness and irresponsibility.”
Character education is most effective when it is integrated during regular school class teaching. In science, teachers can discuss the value of honesty in data; and in mathematics, students can learn persistence by working a problem until they get the correct answer. History holds valuable lessons and heroes of character.
What is important is that character education is not about posting signs that say “Help others. It is more about daily habits that engage children in hands-on activities where good character is emphasized.
Teenagers also need to experience life, to make choices and need to test boundaries, make mistakes and learn consequences. We need to resist the urge to condemn them too quickly or to support them too early, but rather help them to learn more about themselves and their character by making living their learning.
What can you do as parents?
- Check your child’s homework. Encourage your child to establish good work habits. Be firm in your expectations that your child complete their assignments neatly, thoroughly and on time. Set limits, such as “No television until the homework is complete.”
- Take action if your child is learning bad habits or shows a lack of discipline. Express your concerns about bad habits to your child’s teacher.
- Demonstrate courage, respect and compassion through your actions. Talk to your child about good character, and model the behavior you want your child to have. Talk about other people you know who are examples of good character.
In conclusion, in the long run, I’m not sure that it matters if a student learns algebra, but I know that it matters if a student learns right from wrong.