Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Change Agent #6: Use character and life skills resources to tie literature insights into real life.

Typically, values education (or, character education, or life-change education) tries to move students through three steps:

Know the good
Desire the good
Do the good

Pointing out a trait like “kindness” in a character in literature helps students to identify or know kindness. Showing how its positively impacted your life and others helps them to desire the good. Giving specific action points and opportunities to live out kindness helps them to do kindness. Through repetition of these acts of kindness, it becomes a part of their lives.

After reading a novel that touches on integrity, you might ask students: “So you think that person’s integrity allowed him to come out on top in the end. Do you think that’s typical of real people?” Students may well respond, “No. It’s the businessmen who lie about their products and lie on their resumes and step all over the small people who get to the top.”

By bringing in outside stories or research, you might respond, “Well, I used to think that as well. But there’s strong evidence to the contrary. When professor Thomas Stanley studied people who were successful at their businesses and accumulating wealth, he asked them what characteristics they attributed their success to. Here’s what they put up at the top….”

In this way, you’ve reinforced integrity with another line of proof, hopefully moving students closer to “desiring the good.”

So where do you find information like this – stories and facts that motivate students to pursue various traits? I have a vast and growing collection at www.character-education.info . Sign in, choose an alternative payment (not credit card) and say that you were in my seminar. I’ll activate your account free of charge. Take it free for a year. Download what you want. We’re a not for profit. We’re just trying to get the information out there.

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