Parents, Teachers and students should consider the strength of basic human values.
No matter where you stand on educational reform or character education, there’s no denying the fact that we are currently experiencing a worldwide epidemic of youth violence. Whether propelled by depression, fear of failure, the pain of being bullied, or hosts of other troubles young people face today, more and more of them are turning to violence as a way of dealing with the stress of growing up.
So, what is it that these kids are desperate for? What do they need that they are not getting at home or at school? The answer is simple—basic human values instruction. These children are desperately seeking someone who can teach them how to get along in this world, how to be happy, peaceful, and successful. They are fed a stream of pocket-lining sales pitches from the media to look a certain way and wear a certain label of clothing. When the bell rings for each school day to begin, they face the scrutiny of their peers, all of whom are also trying to find their way in a world of mixed messages and misplaced values. Perhaps at some point, it all becomes too much.
Often, teachers shy away from imposing their personal values on their students. I suppose some parents think this is a good thing. Maybe I even agree to some extent. After all, would I want a teacher whose values differ from my own teaching those beliefs to my child? Perhaps not. But, what do we do about those kids who aren’t taught worthwhile values by their families or those who don’t have families to teach them anything at all? What do we do when those kids show up at our doors begging to be taught? Do we turn them away? If we do, what will happen to those kids down the road? How will they deal with the stressors that we all face as our lives become increasingly complex and demanding? Will they turn to alcohol or drugs to control their fear and anxiety? Will they fill our streets and prisons with their misguided self-soothing? Will they do something unthinkable? Will it be their fault if they do?
These are all questions we must answer if we’re serious about leaving no child behind in our society, as we say we are. Clearly, becoming a successful, productive, and fulfilled human being is about more than learning how to read and solve math problems. It’s certainly about more than passing a standardized test, yet we continue to place so much importance on what are arguably trivial things, and in the meantime, kids continue to suffer—from the pain of being abandoned, from the fear and confusion of feeling lost, from the ignorance of not knowing any better.
The school system is the ideal place for these seemingly lost children to receive the moral guidance they are craving. Teachers spend a good seven hours a day with these kids and no doubt impose a powerful influence on their lives, for better or for worse. Failing to take at least a small portion of each day to address issues such as social skills, coping mechanisms, life strategies, and character issues is a mistake that frankly, we can’t afford to make.
Parents, Teachers and students should consider the strength of the following five core values, which are universally valued:
- Responsibility: There is nothing more fundamental to being an adult in our society than accountability. Parents can create cause-and-effect circumstances, such as letting a teen borrow the car provided they put gas in it. Breaking such a pact though, for instance, because of a bad grade in school, can mix the message. Parents must be consistent if they want their children to learn responsibility.
- Compassion: It’s not just a term for being nice; compassion is a form of intelligence – an empathetic ability to put oneself in another’s shoes. This type of abstract thinking is linked to strong team leaders. When given the opportunity to communicate with one another and share their feelings, students will learn to empathize and feel compassion for their fellow man.
- Integrity: Integrity is the glue that holds together all of the values. When given an option to stray from our values, such as lying for the sake of convenience, integrity is there to hold us accountable. Teachers should stress the importance of integrity to one’s self-esteem. When students learn to make decisions based on honesty and integrity, they can then feel proud of their choices and empowered to continue making a positive difference in our world.
- Peace: Inner peace provides the necessary calm-in-the-storm mindset that allows for clear thinking when it’s most needed. In the business world, peace is clarity. Teachers need to model and teach conflict resolution so that students learn to peacefully interact with one another even when a problem or dispute arises.
- Love: Perhaps the only flaw with this word is that it is so loaded with meaning. People use the term to denote fraternal fondness, romance, simple enjoyment of things and even the meaning of life. Without love in life, including love for what one does on the job, and love for others, an individual’s sense of purpose melts away. Students should be taught to love and respect themselves. Only by loving themselves can students ever learn to truly love others. Love, being the opposite of fear, is the one force that truly has the potential to change our world for the better.
Rakesh Malhotra, author of “Adventures of Tornado Kid, Whirling Back Home Towards Timeless Values” (www.FiveGlobalValues.com).