Character education is built into every subject area that we teach. We seem to emphasize winning versus losing, even when we give awards for simple participation. Winning versus losing does not require being good or bad. We can teach winning or losing so much that it seems winning is everything.
However, we have a problem of our own unintended consequences here. To win, even to be able to participate, in and of itself can utilize either or both the speaking of truth and the speaking of lies. Deceit and truth can become mixed together. Often people speak without any thought whether they are saying a lie or the truth or a half truth to create a false impression.
This is a major problem because truth is the basis for personal relationships. Without truth there is no trust. Without trust there is no viable personal relationship. Shakespeare said that "truth will out". Eventually the falsehood will wear thin and become voided by oncoming truth about the matter.
Personal relationship is essential to teaching children. Without truth there is no way of actual demonstration of care. Without demonstration of care that can be validated, teachers fail to earn the right to the trust of their students. Without that trust, whatever the teacher tries to inculcate is weakened. Therefore, the learning atmosphere of the classroom, the achievements of the students, become less than they should be. They are less that they ought to be.
Instead, teaching right versus wrong does elevate the learning relationship in the classroom. Therefore, emphasis on right versus wrong will elevate the idea that being right, being true, being compassionate, being faithful are the foundation of being skillful, understanding, and accomplished.
Students can be taught that truth, objective truth, is the grist needed to formulate understanding. Understanding needs to be shaped by informed compassion so that truth is used to benefit rather than take advantage of others. When students learn that being faithful to these principles creates benefit for others, then they will learn how to lead others. Others will follow because it will be to their benefit to allow knowledgeable and compassionate folks lead them.
We have tried moral relativism and it has failed our culture by giving leadership to those who believe that winning at all costs is the right thing to do. It is not. Winning is not the highest good. Being wise, compassionate, and faithful is what real winning looks like.
The freedom to be able is the freedom that comes from being capable of doing some positive thing by virtue of diligent effort, skillful understanding, compassionate application, and faithful performance. These embody a sense of real "winning."
The "freedom to be able" is the ability to do something new because you learned it, practiced it, and it enabled you to grow and expand your character. To experience the freedom to be able, you must first learn. To learn is to relate to some other person in some way, usually in modeling their behavior. Therefore, learning is achievement based upon relationship.
Relationships come in many forms. In society, beneficial relationships come from trust. Trusting relationships are essential in a classroom. The learning relationship between the teacher and students creates the positive environment so basic to healthy learning.
These relationships have been based upon unseen principles that work. They are, what Thomas Jefferson might call, "self-evident truths". The principles work independently from whether or not we value them. They simply exist. If we discover them and choose to value them, then we gain benefit from that connection.
The three basic principles that work to create positive relationships are: truth, compassion, and faithfulness. I am actually paraphrasing Jesus Christ here. In Matthew 23:23, in the latter part of the verse, He states that the "weightier" matters of the Jewish law are based upon "judgement, mercy, and faith." as translated in the King James Version of the Bible.
Judgement must be based upon truth. In relationships, we do not necessarily hand down judgments, but we do discern. That is, we perceive what we believe to be truth from error, good from bad, honest from sneaky, and so on. And truth is the basis for that discernment. To build real relationships for any purpose, we must be able to discern truth that exists not only in our own brain, but also the truth in the world around us.
Compassion is not just for the individual but also for the group of people. If we have compassion on a student in the classroom because they were noisy, and so we decide to not confront the student, then there is an impact on the rest of the students. Teachers learn very quickly that other students will then feel that they are justified in being noisy also because the teacher (who represents authority in the classroom) has just allowed one student to break the quiet, so they can also. (Obviously, if quiet is not necessary at the moment, that is another thing. However, if quiet is needed at the moment, then, this example applies.) So, it would be compassionate for the entire class for the one noisy student to be confronted.
Faithfulness is faith consistently applied. We are faithful to that in which we have faith, in that which we truly believe. Without faithfulness, there is no consistency. So, if we are truthful, but not all the time, or compassionate, but not all the time, then both of those qualities are degraded.
Notice that truth and compassion and faithfulness are not isolated from each other. They are always interacting. Truth informs compassion about controlling the noise. Faithfulness always supports both truthfulness and compassion to make them stronger. Compassion informs truth in how the truth is applied. That is, truth could be applied in a harsh manner to benefit the teacher only, but compassion seeks to benefit both the individual and every other individual in the group.
If we were to list all of the character traits we could imagine, would they not fall under one or more of these three: truth, compassion, and faithfulness? These are the basics of character education.
Jesus, lover of my soul,
the only lifter of my head,
who paid the price of my sin
on the cross in my stead,
Jesus, conqueror of my fears,
the One Who rises in my soul,
Who heals my wounds with His tears,
by His love He makes me whole.
Jesus, my Christ sent from God,
resurrected from the grave,
I worship you, my Lord of Lords
for by Your grace I am saved.
To the ministry of Hawaiian private Christian schools, a new mandate has arrived from the State of Hawaii. Private Christian schools there are now asked to demonstrate how they teach the traditional Hawaiian values that pre-dated the arrival of Christian missionaries to Hawaii.
The five required Hawaiian cultural values are: Aloha (love), Malama (to take care of), a Kuleana (responsibility), Laulima (working together), and Pono (making right choices). How might these be effectively addressed in connection to the cherished and valued principles which are the Christian way?
A correlation has been made to assist. In the course EDU 923 C (Teaching Christian Values Using Critical Thinking), the original purpose was not, nor has it become, to teach those Hawaiian values as such. However, the course is well equipped to meet the mandate given. That is because it is expected by the State of Hawaii that these Hawaiian values are not only addressed, but actually are applied in some viable way. That way could well be the Value Lesson format provided in the Teaching Christian Values Using Critical Thinking, EDU 923C as correlated to the traditional cultural values of Hawaii.
- Aloha (love) is engaged in the value lessons of "Choosing to Value Others" and "Choosing to Value Respect for Life."
- Malama (to take care of) is addressed in the value lessons of "Choosing to Value Compassion" and "Choosing to Value Justice."
- A Kuleana (responsibility) is found in the value lessons of "Choosing to Value Rest as Reward" (not escape), and "Choosing to Value Approval" (for a job well done).
- Laulima (working together) is employed in the value lesson of "Choosing to Value the Learning Relationship" and further in the rest of the course materials in discussions of "humility to learn", the teacher's "earning the right" to respect from students in the classroom so that they view the teacher as the leader of the classroom, and the "freedom to be able" concept that is at the core of all learning.
- Pono (making right choices) is found in the value lessons of "Choosing to Value Truth" and in "Choosing to Value Faith and Faithfulness." In the the rest of the course beyond the value lessons we also clarify the differences between values as choices we make versus principles which operate independently whether or not we choose to value them. Thus, we choose to value those principles that bring blessing without adding sorrow.
In addition, and very importantly, the upper four levels of Bloom's Taxonomy are employed in these Value Lessons. After a story, in which a fundamental principle is discussed, there comes the Check for Understanding Exercise.
The Check for Understanding Exercise is a unique process which transforms the fundamental principle into a learning objective. To reach the final outcome, students are led easily with open ended questions. They go upwards from:
In this course "Teaching Christian Values Using Critical Thinking, Christian teachers in private schools are provided that process by which cherished Christian ways of thinking can be taught in such a way as to allow Christian teachers the opportunity to teach what they believe. By teaching what they believe, they also teach the historical values of Hawaiian culture.
- through synthesis in the form of summarizing,
- through evaluation of the fundamental principle
- and to the creative next step. It is the culminating point of the Check for Understanding Exercise in which the learning objective can now be birthed into creativity.
- The principle now valued can be written about, discussed, and encouraged into becoming a practiced virtue of the student.
Christian teachers of Hawaii, and others, are invited to consider several options: video conferences on these issues email@example.com, enrollment in the course EDU 923C (http://ce.fresno.edu/cpd/dale-knepper
), purchase of the text written from the course materials (http://www.createspace.com/3989747
). In any case, you are invited to view the video overview of the course EDU 923 C at http://www.vimeo.com/105579300
Politics and education are not supposed to mix. Politics is supposed to be about people getting elected to public office. Education is supposed to be about children being equipped for a life of productive, peaceful, independence. It would be wonderful if life were that simple, but it isn't, is it?
Years ago, actually in the late 1800's, a very famous and later very powerful man, Lenin, (the chief leader in the Communist Revolution in Russia) stated that the schools were where children were "socialized" and therefore schools were of interest to political issues.
In early 1900's a famous educator, John Dewey, made references to the same general idea, that children's thinking was molded in schools. Dewey further commented that the local school educators should have primary direction of such learning. (I'm forgoing the usual references because much of what I am saying here is fairly common knowledge to those who are professional educators with graduate hours dedicated to understanding the heritage of modern public education.)
See if this line of thinking makes sense. First, educators have responsibility for the ways of thinking of children. Next, public school superintendents are chosen by elected board members. These superintendents are therefore sensitive to public opinion and to educational issues that influence voting results. It follows that what educators do to shape the ways children think are often political issues passed downward from their State or school district officials. Therefore, any educational issue that is of interest to voters is a reason why education and politics are connected. They are not the same thing, but they are attached.
Now, does that make sense? Why or why not? Feel free to comment to this post.
The Common Core State Standards are an example of great importance. Teachers, who prefer the inductive method which uses inquiry seem to like the style of the scientific method. They are enthusiastic about the concept of the "arc of inquiry" found in the C3 document for social studies. They may also embrace much of the language arts, mathematics, and science curriculum.
Other teachers, who prefer covering more information rather than devoting such larger amounts of time to inquire and research, will not like the academic patterns of Common Core State Standards. These teachers will possibly be among those who take exception to the process by which Common Core State Standards was brought from the "drawing board" into implementations by States and school districts.
The details of this are many and are still unfolding. The point of this essay is not to list a chronology nor is it to identify key individuals on one side of the issue or the other. The point of this issue is simply that politics and education are not the same but they are intertwined. In a democracy with a public education system it seems unavoidable.
What is this about? It is about the ways of looking at truth so that we can use those ideas to teach children to value truth. Truth is vital to establishing and keeping trust in relationships among people. Relationships are the basis of achieving things. Truth is vital for us to justify what we think and how we feel and what we do. Pretty big stuff, right?
Truth has a lot of definitions. It shouldn't, but it does. What is true to one person may not be true to another. One television personality actually said during an Emmy Awards show, where he had received an Emmy, that "Truth is what you make the other guy believe."
It is generally agreed by many that there are two basic kinds of truth. There is "objective truth" that exists just because it does exist. It is up to people to discover it.
The other kind of truth is "subjective truth" that is actually inside our own brains. That exists too. However, the truth inside our head does not necessarily reflect the outside truth.
Wisdom involves matching the truth inside our heads to the reality of truth outside our heads. That would mean being honest with ourselves. What if we don't want to hear the truth? What if knowing the truth would damage someone's feelings so badly that it would be better if they never heard the truth? Well, those are exceptional situations.
Generally, it is better for us to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth if we are going to be wise about things.
When teaching children, they expect to hear the truth from a teacher. Too often, teachers have been taught to play mind games in order to gain control over other people. (This may happen in their early home life and continue to this day.) Sometimes, teachers may fall into the trap of saying things that are either not true or are not wise to say to children. Again, they may do this to gain emotional control over children in the classroom.
Children treated in such a way at home or at school will learn to be manipulative as well. They may tend to use half truth and overly stated emotionally charged statements in order to gain control and favor.
Teachers trying to build a learning relationship on the basis of truth must first of all, do no harm. They must inspect their own attitudes, behaviors, and speech to make sure they are not acting as manipulative half truthers.
Then, teachers may deem it wise to advise students that human dignity demands respect to at least the level where we all deserve to get the truth out of each other. Hiding crimes that others do so as to not be a "snitch" also acts to hide the deceptions that the little criminal has used to cover their tracks.
Truth is a hard commodity to come by in any environment, even schools. But, if we are going to educate students, we need to do it truthfully. As George Washington actually said, "Honesty is the best policy." That includes the classroom.
A remarkable student just finished taking the course teaching values, Christian (EDU 923C at www.ce.fresno.edu/cpd/dale-knepper.mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
). She is a native Nigerian who taught children in Moscow, Russia and then came to the USA. She now teaches in Georgia. Her end of the course evaluation said several remarkable things. Among them was a statement about being encouraged to teach her deeply held values.
Education of children is all about character education, whether or not it is called such. A teacher cannot teach without a classroom atmosphere built upon some level of mutual respect. That cannot happen without reference to character building on a moment to moment basis.
Character is all about what principles we choose to value. When we value things that do not turn out so well, we look for other principles that seem to work. This takes time and effort out of our lives that we can never get back. So, when we locate these values, they are precious to us. This is so true to us that we dearly hope to pass them on to our students. It becomes a gift of our heart to their souls.
The course EDU 923C is all about teaching ways of thinking, principles, that are based upon Biblical principles and thus build Biblical faith in students. My student is a Christian of deep faith. She was engaged by the principles discussed and she made full use of them in her study. That is why she was encouraged.
We can all take encouragement from her experience. The government might try to separate church from state. But, it can never separate faith from state. That is because whatever we believe we cannot help but express in word and deed.
God bless you and your beloved.
There is an ancient argument between those who favor inductive teaching (such as with inquiry) and those who favor deductive teaching (such as with lecture and text books). Today, Common Core authors clearly have indicated the inductive approach. This goes along nicely with the sort of investigation done in the scientific method.
In the Value Lessons of the Fresno Pacific University courses (Values with Critical Thinking EDU 923 and Values Education: Christian EDU 923C) a combination of these two methods are used, inductive and deductive.
In each value lesson, there is a story, or parable, if you will. From this a fundamental principle is drawn. There is then a learning objective written. Here, the concept of the fundamental principle is blended with the final goal in the creative last step of what we term, "The Check for Understanding Exercise." This is that part of the lesson which is inductive. So, the deductive transitions into an inductive process.
The learning objective opens the door to four steps of the higher level thinking skills of Bloom's Taxonomy of Knowledge: analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and creativity. These are steps taken in the process of the Check for Understanding Exercise. Students are taken through the open ended questions which progress sequentially upwards through Bloom's to culminate in an educational product.
That educational product also takes the value choices involved in each lesson and guides them into an educational product that can be assessed. Thus, affective education has become effective education.
Two parables have been written with value lessons attached for you to preview. They follow the same process used in my courses and they are free for the taking if you find them useful. The latest is called "The Parable of the Shoes that Don't Fit" and is an original story based on a conclusion drawn from Christ's two parables of the new and old cloth and the story of the new and old wine skins. The earlier parable is the original parable is of the risen Christ, the Parable of the Sower.
Please check out the processes used, the content used, and see if there are good ideas you might be able to use. Go to www.straightpaths.typepad.com. The posts are dated July, 2014.
Back in the day of the "hippie" revolution, the 1960's and early 1970's, there was a popular bumper sticker with the caption "question authority." The hippies successfully, it seems, took their motto and used it for demonstrations of all sorts to overthrow the established philosophy of education.
They grew up from being immature youngsters who would not trust anyone over the age of 30 until they reached that age. They became the new leaders of education, business, politics, entertainment, and so on.
Now, the old hippies are in charge. They questioned authority so much that they replaced the long established moral priniciple with relative values. Now, one person's values are as "valuable" as another's. Conflict is harder to resolve. That is because there are multiple values of equal "value" rather than a recognized principle that really works.
A person in authority only has it so that they can carry out responsiblity that matches it. If they are responsible, then they must have authority to meet it. If they have authority then they have responsibility to use it responsibly.. Responsibility and authority are two sides of the same coin. You cannot effectively have one without the other. Although they are very different, they work together.
If the authority is based only upon the relative values, then, because the responsibility is only as stable as the value choices that form its foundation, the results are more in question. If authority is based upon choices to value self-evident principles, then that authority and responsiblity will more likely be reliable and therefore successful.
Questioning authority is self-destructive. Questioning the nature of authority is absolutely unwise. That does not mean that the person in authority cannot be questioned. It does not mean that rules cannot be questioned. It does mean that the nature of authority and responsibility is a principle that works. It is the basis of achieving with less chaos.
Our society, I believe, is in a greater state of chaos than in previous generations. We cannot return to the past. However, we can return to valuing the principles that really work.
There is indeed a cultural struggle going on today in world society. America is included in that struggle. It shows up in the education of our children as well. Well meaning people struggle with each other, all of whom love children, all of whom have differing experiences. Thus, their ideas and ideals conflict.
What is to follow is advocacy in favor of the basic and fundamental belief that people have purpose. That people are more important than things in that things should serve people, not the other way around. Therefore, education as an institution is a thing. We should not be, as educators, in the business of furthering our own agendas, (which are also things) at the expense of the children and the families we serve.
It would seem that the philosophy of self-esteem would serve the child. Now, I am not talking about actual self-esteem which we all need. I am referring to a philosophy which replaces the need for religion to be a moral guide of children in school. That philosophy, as it is being carried out in the public schools today, is a morally destructive force because it is based on half truths. It harms genuine moral development of true virtue in a person. However, the philosophy of self esteem functions to validate the beliefs of those educators which establish their power by opposing the older formerly established group of educators that used religion as a basis of public morality.
The half truths are too many to recount here. However, let us consider a few basic ones. First, self-esteem as a philosophy was described and put forward as suggested policy for education in the State of California in a book entitled, Toward a State of Esteem. It was publiched in 1990 and established a platform for the use of a philosphy of self-esteem as public education policy.
The faults of this philosophy were described in a post on another blog, www.straightpaths.typepad.com. I will only mention some faulty concepts of that philosophy here and refer you to that post for more information.
First, in the philosphy of self-esteem, obviously, the focus is on self. From the self central outlook, there is a call to be responsible toward others, but not on an equal basis. Here is a fundamental half truth. Self is indeed important. That is the truth part. But the untrue part is to say that our need to be responsible should be fundamentaly self serving. We do benefit others when we are responsible. However, the outlook of self-esteem does not place equal emphasis on the needs of others. Selfl-esteem is always by definition self central.
This self central viewpoint is the source of all sorts of failures to achieve the stated goals of this philosophy of self-esteem. To give positive answers, let's start by remembering the strengths from which we come.
First, if we will do unto others as we would have them do unto us, then we put others on equal footing with ourselves. This is the true begining of being responsible to others and "earns the right" to ask others to perform their duty to be respnsible to us. This cooperative viewpoint lifts us above being self central. It does not make others greater than we are. It does work to establish trust between us and others. Without mutual trust there is no ongoing working relationship. Without relationship there is no cooperation, no learning, no....you name it.
Second, if we will re-establish the idea of ideals, knowing that even if we fall short, we will have achieved far more than if we had been afraid to even try. If we forgive ourselves too easily of failing, then failing becomes a habit excused.
So, let us look to people whom we admire, try to locate the secrets of their success, and then go exploring ways to not simply be content with sowing seeds but be gratified by eating the fruit.
Third. If we will accept first the human dignity of others before recognizing our own but doing both, we will establish the ability to not only appreciate ourselves but others as well. And, then, if we will see that as mutual respect, then we will see that we do not have to take respect away from someone else in order to have our own.
There are so many other aspects to the philosophy of self-esteem that book after book could be written on them. These are only three key answers to fundamental weaknesses of the stated philosophy as it first appeared in the book Toward a State of Esteem.
In the next post we will look at the idea "question authority".