Getting serious about teaching good character
by Jim Davidson
Aug 12, 2013 | 555 views | 0 0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Awhile back I got an unsigned letter from a reader that made me mad. This reader was responding to a column I had written several months ago titled “There are no winners in a school shooting.”

Here is what this person said: “Two lines in your column say it all. Congress has proven over and over again that they are not going to do anything about mind pollution. There is far too much money there. Money is more important than life. Sounds callous maybe. In your columns you often speak of truth, honesty, integrity, fairness and justice. I believe these words are obsolete.”

The last line is what really made me mad. The words truth, honesty, integrity, fairness and justice are not obsolete. They are just as relevant in today’s society as they have ever been, but unfortunately too many people have never been taught what they mean, and the tremendous impact they will have on their lives as long as they live. What I am saying is that we must teach character, not only in the home, but we must also teach it in all of our schools and colleges just like we teach math, science, history and computer skills. But obsolete? Hardly!

It is with this in mind that I want to tell you about a college that is making a concerted effort to teach character to all new students who attend there. This is the College of the Ozarks, located in Branson, Mo. At the beginning of each school year the institution holds an intensive 10-day Character Camp and has an agenda that makes it obvious officials are serious about teaching character to the students. The camp is named for Willard and Pat Walker, who gave an endowment to fund the Character Academy which encourages young people to develop their character while gaining an education of the head, heart and hands.

It was my good fortune to learn about this Character Camp from a fine young man named Andy Baldwin, who is attending this college on a basketball scholarship. One of the things that makes this camp so special is that it utilizes the volunteer services of moms and pops who come to the campus and serve as peer counselors. What better way to learn than to share some time with mature adults who have been out in the real world for many years?

To my way of thinking, people in education are missing a real bet if they don’t take advantage of people’s experience who are willing to invest a little of their time in this way.

In order for you to have a little more insight into what I have been saying, I would like to give you some of the “Goals of the Character Camp” and then highlight a few of the sessions in the 10-day total experience:

1. Help students understand the college’s expectations.

2. Assist students in understanding the purpose of higher education.

3. Develop familiarity with the physical surroundings.

4. Provide information and exposure to institutional services.

5. Provide information concerning academic policies, requirements and programs.

6. Introduce students to character development and reinforce how vital it is to success at College of the Ozarks and in life after college.

7. Convey the importance of good character, respect for yourself, others, your school and your country.

Here are just a few of the highlights: Character Camp introduction, talk on character, campus family time, character case studies, campfire talks, character development and leadership training workshop, etiquette class, binge drinking video, challenge course and honor induction/etiquette banquet.

One of the keys to student success is to create high expectations with regard to character in the learning environment.

A final question: Could you use some of this information to do a better job of teaching character to those you love?

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(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. He may be contacted at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway AR 72034.)