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Why are so many children familiar with the adage "do as I say, not as I do?" The answer should be obvious - because we, as adults, often do things that we don't want our children doing. Let's face it - many of us are hypocrites.

Children are like sponges. They perceive much by watching others, but they have a more difficult time understanding the context. So they simply imitate the actions that they see. Like this. Or this. Or this. Well, you get the idea.

If we want our children to grow up as decent human beings, we have to be setting the proper examples. If we want our children to value being healthy, we need to be eating healthy, exercising, going to sleep on-time, and the like. In other words, our children need to see us being healthy. If we don't want our children to learn how to smoke like this kid, we shouldn't be smoking ourselves.

Speaking of hypocrisy, and being the solid authority on ethics that they are, sometimes the government swoops in and arrests adults for "impairing the morals of a child." However, more common are public schools trying to instill certain values into children.

What values do you teach your children? What values do you think are generally missing from children nowadays? How do you model proper behavior for children? When is it proper for the government to interfere in a child's upbringing? Should schools be doing more to develop their children's character and value systems? Is it a good idea for schools to teach children to restrain their own desires and interests?

Like it or not, character-building is becoming an increasingly important issue for schools. Since the riots in August, it has also come increasingly to the attention of Michael Gove at the education department and indeed of the prime minister and Nick Clegg. An article I wrote in for the Guardian recently produced a lively response online and in the letters page. My argument was that schools of all kinds have become too much like exam factories, concentrating their energies on securing passes at A to C at GCSE level, and have given too little attention to the overall development of the child and their character (the scramble for results has also been at the cost of genuine learning and creative teaching). The government should embrace character-building and all-round education not as an alternative to academic attainment but as an essential adjunct of it. The opportunities open to those of independent education for wider enrichment should be available to all, regardless of school...

Indeed, from the first moment at the King Solomon Academy, one is struck by the silence in corridors: even those lining up for assembly do so in silence. Assemblies themselves have a relentless focus on the modelling of good behaviour, high aspiration and the imparting of a common corporate culture, even down to the synchronised hand-clapping. Teachers are told in the staff handbook that "everyone on the team must be on the same page with the same standards for pupil behaviour" and that this is "non-negotiable". Even small student misdemeanours are to be picked up on, and students are instructed very firmly to stand up silently at the beginning of the class, say "bless you" when a peer sneezes and "I'm sorry" when a teacher reprimands them...

The focus since has been unremittingly on "excellent character". Students are taught that accepting responsibility for behaviour is more important than their individual rights, and the parents are told that the school values the development of strong character above all else.

The key character traits it highlights are empathy, resilience, self-regulation. In tune with the thinking of Professor Martin Seligman's work on positive psychology, the school sets great store by "deferring classification" and on self-denial, with the aim of achieving something more worthwhile down the line.

Schools should develop children's character, not just their ability to pass exams. The best state schools already seek to improve students' achievements through a wider education. We need to do more


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on Sep 19, 2011 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=646

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