Archive for Thursday, January 15, 2009

A child’s character follows into future

January 15, 2009

It is well over a decade ago that a middle school youngster sat in my office and talked haltingly about his cheating at school. He was there because he had had a bout of guilt that would not leave him; not until he had admitted what he had done.

Forgiveness comes in small packages, with huge results. We talked about what he needed to do to correct his mistake, as well as what he might do to see that it didn’t happen again.

I only saw him a few times after that; he is now grown. My guess is that he grew into a young man with integrity, not in small part because his confrontation with cheating was a crisis in his image of the kind of person he wanted to be. He was, in my mind, a very typical youngster who made a mistake and, driven by guilt, came to discover the error of his ways, found forgiveness in his willingness to confront his behavior and went on to develop into a responsible and dependable young adult.

A recent report of a study of high school students, as reported on the Today show, showed that ninety-five percent of them reported cheating. My guess is that they engaged in cheating without much remorse.

We either have a generation of young adults who lack character or who are driven by pressure from parents and teachers. If we are rearing a generation of youngsters who lack integrity and honesty, thereby creating a culture in which strength of character is less important than succeeding at any cost, we will all suffer.

If, on the other hand, we have a generation who has been taught to believe that success at any cost is desirable, we still have the opportunity to teach them otherwise. It may be in part because of the parent who believes that having a student with a good academic record is more important than the kind of adult they are preparing for the future.

It may be in part because of teachers who are under pressure to teach to the standards foisted upon the educational system by the No Child Left Behind legislature.

One of the reporters on the Today show made the point that you don’t see bumper stickers that read “Proud parent of an honest student,” but you do see a plethora of bumper stickers that read “Proud parent of an honor roll student.” The question is, how did the student make it to the honor roll; what happened to the honesty in honor?

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