Thursday, April 19, 2012

Character Education and Educating Characters: Part I


I
t’s only 8:36 AM and this has already been an eventful morning.  Not eventful in the terrible sense that I opened the pasture gate and found injury and imminent demise on the other side.  That goes way beyond eventful.  No, this was just Basic Enlightenment eventful.  It began when I cleaned under my office desk.  

For some of you (and I won't hold it against you despite my desire to defend my ego) that is a nothing kind of way to start a day.  You probably don't have much under your desk.  If you do, it's probably well-organized and up-to-date on cleaning.  Trust me, neatness and cleanliness don't always go hand-in-hand.  My underdesk is as neat as a pin, all the folders and tall things standing upright and all the loose stuff in plastic drawer bins.  I like to leave well-enough alone, so it has looked exactly that way for some time now.  How long?  At least since 2001.  That's the date on the freshly-unearthed, wonderfully well-organized plastic file folder with all the little pockets neatly labeled and my notes on the 2001 Newton High School Opening Day In-Service for Teachers still on the attached note pad.

The subject of that in-service was "Character Education".

As I read through the notes, I found this bit of historical data:   
  • In the early 1930's, Judeo-Christian values predominated.
  • In the mid-1930's a Columbia University study showed that parents and society had a greater influence on students than the schools did.
  • In the 1960's, values clarification was initiated and it was determined that teachers did not have the right to impress their values on students.  Instead, they would help students better understand their own.
  • In the 1980's there was a rebirth of traditional [Judeo-Christian values predominating] approaches.
  • In the 1990's, President Clinton called for "Values Education"
  • In 2000, Clinton ramped that up to "Character Education".
The speaker then went on to talk about what was then a very old new concept, "Inclusion".  That was the reintegration of  students identified as needing extra support (eg: Special Ed Kids) with the kids who supposedly didn't need that extra boost (eg: Regular Ed Kids).  This was a big step up/back to the days pre-special education when all kids were in classes together but some spent a lot of time in the wood shop and graduated "Summa Cum Lucky", as a favorite high school principal used to say.

Zip, wondering
You're probably wondering what all this has to do with horses and the psychology of said beasts and their riders.  The connection is in the ebb and flow and the definition of "character".  

The "Six Pillars of Character" are these:

  1. Trustworthiness
  2. Respect
  3. Responsibility
  4. Fairness
  5. Caring
  6. Citizenship
Is it sounding more familiar now?  Take Carol Sprague off the dais and put Richard Shrake there, and you've got Training by the Numbers, a character education program for horses.  Take "Judeo-Christian values" out of the pattern and replace it with any favored form of horse training, and you've got the wave of transition up to and through Natural Horsemanship...Character Education at its finest.
Now get this!  Ethics is "the quality of persistence in humans and of knowing when not to continue".    And this:  "What you wear and how you are influences how and what you teach".   And finally:  "If we haven't changed their behavior, we have failed, even if they've passed the tests".  
If that doesn't sound like a horse (and rider) training program, then I probably need another cup of coffee and a medication review.  In my next post (assuming nothing under my desk becomes more distracting than this file), I'll try to explain how all of this comes together.  

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