A good start

[This might model a letter to members of the school district before the beginning of the school year.]

Character Education, for the first time, has been made a formal requirement for all school districts.

We have two choices:

  1. We can either drum into our students a fixed set of rules, or
  2. We can help our students develop a process by which they can decide how to respond honorably.

The former may easier but it is less useful. The latter takes more effort but produces better citizens. The latter is the more sensible choice.

Character Education is most effective when we develop in students the ability to:

  1. Recognize the ethics of a situation they find themselves in, and
  2. Decide how to respond to those circumstances in an honorable fashion.

A good beginning rests on the dual concepts of Respect and Responsibility. Respect is inwardly directed towards ourselves and towards our treatment of others. Responsibility is outwardly directed towards our friends, our school, our community, and our world.

As students develop awareness of Respect and Responsibility, they will measure themselves and those around them. We, too, will be measured according to how we act. The best practice is to model the behavior we expect. Every teacher, administrator, librarian, custodian, lunch monitor, security agent and support staff needs to model the same respect and responsibility we expect from students.

Over the course of the coming year, the district’s Committee on Character Education, with input from other interested constituencies, will discuss how best to expand on these principles. Meanwhile, we’ll start now setting a solid foundation by requiring respect and responsibility be practiced by all.

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