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Character Education at Nashoba Brooks School

Defining a Moral Community

Nashoba Brooks School values the training of character as highly as the training of the mind and is dedicated to the development of character in all aspects of school life. Central to the meaning of character are respect for one's self and for others, a sense of right and wrong, compassion and caring, responsibility as an individual and as a member of a community, and courage to stand up for one's convictions.

Character begins deep in the self, with a strong sense of one's self and one's values, and then spirals outward to larger and larger circles, gradually encompassing siblings, parents, friends, teachers, and the larger world. In this way, character is both personal and social. Character expresses a vision both of one's self and one's relationship to a community.

First in the development of character is self-respect. Each student must learn to know herself and to honor herself, her dignity, and her individual beliefs. After that, students can learn to respect and honor other people. Respect for others includes acceptance of other beliefs and values that may be different from one's own. Respect for others takes place within the context of relationships and is effective only when mutual: the mutual respect between children and parents, between students and teachers, between individuals and their community.

A sense of right and wrong lies at the core of character. It is important to recognize that different values hold at different eras and places, in different cultures. Such recognition is part of respect for others. At the same time, basic ethical values such as honesty, fairness, and caring are universal. Above all, our school is a "moral community," with certain shared values.

After establishing respect and a sense of right and wrong, each student should develop a sense of responsibility, responsibility to uphold his personal values and the values of his community, responsibility to honor the commitments to himself and the commitments to his community. Finally, each student should see himself as a citizen of the world and accept responsibility to make the world a better place. Responsibility often requires action. Students must be prepared to act on their commitments to themselves and to others.

A companion to respect and responsibility is compassion. We want our students to be able to see the world from the viewpoints of other people, to understand and respond to others' needs. Each of us is not simply an individual but part of a community. Another person’s needs are our needs, another person’s suffering is our suffering, another person’s joy is our joy.

A final ingredient of character is courage, courage not only to develop one's values but also to stand up for them, courage to express one's convictions and to act on them.

Character education should be integrated throughout all aspects of the school: academic, athletic, artistic, and social. Character is not an abstract concept but a living thing, with ongoing expressions and demonstrations throughout the year. Students must be challenged to understand the ethical choices that are constantly presented to them, to think about their code of values, and to act on those values. The development of character, like respect for diversity and a life of learning, is a way of being in the world.

 


Speaking of Character

The following is a transcription of parent/former trustee Charles Denault's speech to third grade families at an end-of-year breakfast.

When asked to speak today, I found myself thinking of why Katharine and I have sent four children to Nashoba Brooks. What did we want for them? When Michael, the first of the four, entered Nashoba sixteen years ago we were drawn by the faculty/student ratio, thinking that this would permit the faculty to spend more time on him, and thus he would receive a better education.

Sixteen years later I have to come realize that as much as I want for my children to have a solid education, that equally I want my children to have character.

Not to be confused with being a character.

They need to understand right and wrong, to be strong enough to disagree with peers, and to stand up for what they think is right. It is my hope that each of my children will understand their responsibility to their peers and their planet, and will not be governed by personal greed.

I want my children to have character.

It is during these years at Nashoba Brooks that their character starts to form, and with the school providing role models and guidance supporting the values we have in each of our homes, our children will have character.

How does this relate to the legacy program?

Nashoba Brooks School exists because of true philanthropists. People of character. Whether it be the Concord Citizens who founded Nashoba Country Day, the members of this community who refused to let the Brooks School fail, and facing strong opposition, merged the two schools, or the buildings and endowment, gifts made to the school by those who came before us.

All of us in this room have benefited from the selfless generosity of those who walked before us.