Content and Character

Attacking Accountability.

character traitsThere is an increasing emphasis on holding teachers accountable for the performance on their students on standardized tests. Seldom are the students themselves held to any serious accountability, rather, students are provided alternate methods of learning if they perform poorly the first time.

One innate problem is that on many important standardized exams, there is no real consequence to the student whether or not they perform successfully. For instance, the STAR test that formerly determined the API standing of California public schools had literally zero consequence for the individual student.

Even though an increased emphasis has been placed on school accountability (i.e. No Child Left Behind, Common Core, etc.), there are many cases where the performance of selected groups is still on the decline or hasn’t improved significantly.

There is an intrinsic flaw in the current process of education and learning.

The fundamental problem really isn’t rooted in the poor performance of teachers, nor is it found in the other whipping post targets such as family structure, economics, or the ubiquitous “society.”

The foundational problem causing poor performance in students is a character issue. Many students come to school seriously lacking in proper character development in areas of responsibility, integrity, ambition and timeliness.

Compounding the problem, is the overwhelming hindrance to addressing those character issues because of the suffocating influence of living in a “politically correct” society that makes it unacceptable to address any issue that could question the comfort level of a student’s inner life.

Teachers know that poorly performing students often have certain characteristics in common.

Students often…

  • don’t or won’t read
  • don’t pay attention
  • show radical individualism
  • have poor attendance
  • are consumed by electronic entertainment
  • abuse drugs and/or alcohol
  • perform poorly on standardized exams

In the burocratic world of education we’ve invented all sorts of “new and innovative” methods and systems to get kids to work and learn effectively.

Unfortunately, these new methods of learning and teaching are doomed to failure unless the inner character of kids changes and is focused on achieving something worthwhile rather than being entertained.

Natural consequences work.

One of the first steps in solving this problem might be the return of letting natural consequences occur in school.

Natural consequences occur in just about all other places.

If you go fishing with the wrong bait, you won’t catch many fish. If you go hiking in street shoes with no socks, you will get blisters.

Similar natural consequences should occur in school because natural and significant results of events produce either a positive energy or a fear of failure that generates productive actions.

Plus, if we want to teach fundamental character issues as critical to the learning process, letting things happen naturally add a sense of realism to our words. For instance, if a student doesn’t do his homework, it should be legitimate to address the responsibility issue as thoroughly as the lack of learning that occurred. Furthermore, the natural consequence would be the low grade that a missing homework would produce.

Finally, and I know this flies in the face of much current thought, if a student doesn’t produce academically, that student should have to repeat that class. In other words, failure IS an option.

The character issues involved include such items as responsibility, integrity and respect. Obviously, if you are in a Christian school, it’s perfectly appropriate to use God-words to address the concepts. In the public school, however, you can address the identical event within the context of developing acceptable “character traits.”

In conclusion, I pose a non-rhetorical question.

Dare we stand up for what’s right?

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