Character Education at Nashoba Brooks
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 persons needs are
our needs, another persons suffering is our suffering, another
persons 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.