The Banking Crisis: One School Identifies The Long-Term Solution

A $700 billion bail-out may stanch the bleeding on Wall Street, and may even quell some short-term economic fears around the world. But it is not the long-term solution to a crisis that has been building over time.

To the contrary: there is a new generation of kids sitting in high schools and colleges right now, trying to figure out how to do the same thing when they get older: how to become rich, at any cost, with little to no accountability.

There is a school that offers an alternative to this cycle of cheating that is rampant in our schools and is our culture – a school that teaches tomorrow’s Wall Street bankers to engage in business with integrity – a school that can help sew up America’s unraveling moral fiber.

Hyde School, a private high school in Bath, Maine has led the way in character-building education for 40 years, and has been featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes, ABC’s 20/20, and PBS. At this time – and there is no better time – its famous “Attitude over Aptitude” philosophy is now branching out into the public schools, from Washington, D.C. to the Bronx.

Malcolm Gauld, President of Hyde Schools, and award-winning co-author of the book The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have (Scribner), is recognized as one of the nation’s leading experts on character education and parenting.

“Never kid a kid,” Gauld says. “They will never misread our true expectations of them. They know we have created an educational system that values their aptitude more than their attitude, their ability more than their effort, and their talent more than their character. They are surrounded by signs that tell them that what they can do is more important than who they are.”

Unfortunately, rewarding kids simply for what they can do has led to a lack of real self-esteem as well as a lack of character development. It is at the core of the current cheating epidemic in our schools. Unchecked, it can become a systemic concern for the nation.

“Our culture has become preoccupied with achievement,” Gauld explains. “We measure success by jobs, grades, test scores, and the cars we drive. We have created an atmosphere that places image and results over the process of learning. Students – and their parents – shy away from academic challenges, out of fear it may affect a GPA.”

In a character culture, achievement is valued, but principles are valued more. That is, what you stand for is more important than how you are stacking up against the others.

In addition to a traditional curriculum, Hyde School expects their students to:

  • Demonstrate a desire to be lifelong learners;
  • Take risks by choosing courses that challenge them, rather than those that accommodate natural abilities;
  • Act out of concern to support their peers with academic struggles;
  • Take leadership roles in the classroom and in the community;
  • Hold high expectations for themselves and their classmates.

Further, they must expect to make mistakes, and to learn from them.

“Character is inspired, not imparted,” says Gauld. “We cannot pour it into our kids or our families. Self-esteem–real, authentic self-esteem–is essential, and once earned, it can never be taken away. Our children should graduate from schools with a healthy amount of it.”

Recent Hyde School graduate Dana Wappler, 20, agrees.

“This school has helped instill a sense of responsibility in me,” Wappler says. “If your character comes first, everything else flows from that.”