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. Students must learn to know themselves, and to honor themselves, their dignity, and their 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.