Why is Teaching Children How to Think More Valuable Than Teaching Them
Sep 4, 2008 Teaching 3975 Views
Benjaming Franklin once wrote, "...as the happiness or real good of men consists in right action, and right action cannot be produced without right opinion, it behooves us, above all things in this world, to take care that our opinions of things are according to the nature of things. The foundation of all virtue and happiness is thinking rightly."
Character is all about making choices. There is nothing that defines one's character so much as one's choices. It is at the focal point of choice that all advertising, all political influence, all ideology-indeed all persuasion and influence are directed. It's at the point of choice that the decision is made as to what is really important and the course that one will follow.
The unfortunate reality of our time is that, before their character is yet fully formed, large numbers of our young, privileged as perhaps no generation before with freedom of thought and action, are being confronted with ideas and choices, the consequences of which they can barely fathom much less comprehend.
Young people today are faced with a bewildering array of choices-not just in the number of options available to them, but also in the potential outcomes of these choices, for both good and ill. Character education is all about teaching young people to make responsible choices-choices that are constructive and positive in nature.
But, simply knowing right from wrong is not enough. The fact is that at the point of choice, most people including children know, or at least suspect, they are crossing the line between right and wrong. It's desire, not knowledge, that determines the quality of one's choices.
Herein lies the heart of character development. And, herein lies the greatest challenge in teaching character education. To achieve the motivational influence necessary to sustain our students in making difficult choices, our lessons need to help them answer the question "Why choose the right?" in terms so relevant and pertinent they will possess not only the desire, but also the will to choose the right.
To be effective, character education must do more than impart information, it must also inspire, strengthen, and motivate students to act nobly-even when every inducement conspires to encourage them to act otherwise.
Truth is not always convenient, morality is not always popular, and self-denial is not always easy. To consistently make responsible choices in the face of opposing influence requires the ability to recognize the right course and the will to take it.
We live in an increasingly complex and confusing world. For us to fully prepare young people to take a responsible role in solving the great problems facing society, and to be able to personally avoid these problems themselves, we need to spend far more time teaching young people how to think, and perhaps less time is telling them what to think.
Helping young people develop the necessary internal controls to consistently make good choices is and ought to be a primary focus of character education. Fort this to happen, young people must develop their thinking skills to the point where they are mentally and emotionally mature enough to possess these internal controls.
The following elements are critical ingredients to any effective character education program.
1) A clear understanding of the inseparable connection between virtue and happiness, 2) Adequate attention to helping them develop the mental and emotional faculties essential to thinking clearly-even in the midst of temptation, confusion, and disillusion, 3) Daily opportunities to consider the principles being taught, and 4) A risk free environment in which they may experience the benefits of good choices and the penalties of poor choices
This suggests that a new model of character education needs to be understood and implemented-character based learning.
Essentially character based learning is integrating the acquisition of knowledge (math, English, science, social studies, or whatever) with the development of thinking skills and growth in virtue or moral development into the same learning experience.
When done properly, and it's not all that difficult, it is possible to achieve all four of the above objectives.