Character Education is the Way Forward (A Three Part Series)

SUMMARY: Laura and Malcolm Gauld, parenting and education experts, have prepared a timely series for your education focus. The first of three press releases is enclosed, and the other two will follow within a few days.

The Gaulds address the issue of character and challenges that pertain to middle school and high school students across the nation — namely, character and sports, cheating and bullying, peer pressure, academic pressure, and other important topics relevant to our time. You are invited to run these as a series, or to use any of the press releases.

The Gaulds have led the way in character education for more than three decades as leaders of a network of public and private schools. Their “Attitude over Aptitude” and philosophy and principles-based education has been featured on many national television and radio networks and news magazines, and in print. They are also the authors of the parenting book “The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have” and the founders of the seminars that evolved from it. Laura and Malcolm are available for radio interviews and television interviews in New England.

Education Experts: Character Education is the Way Forward – Part I

Recent headlines in the “Boston Globe” may be startling, but their details are not uncommon.

Members of the Needham High School girls’ soccer team have been suspended for allegedly ‘hazing’ younger team members. As many parents and fans vehemently protest the decision, school and sports officials throughout the state of Massachusetts continue to take a hard line and support the suspension.

Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, explained, “It’s not just the students directly involved. It’s the whole culture of the school.”

“That is the most important aspect about this event — the culture of the school,” says Malcolm Gauld. “This issue goes far beyond one team or the opportunity to win a game. It speaks directly to the environment in which our children learn, and the people we want our children to become.”

Malcolm Gauld is president of Hyde Schools, an organization of public and private schools offering a curriculum based in character education. He and his wife, Laura, are the authors of the parenting book “The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have.”

“Without a doubt, the way forward in life — and in the school system — is to develop one’s character, consciously or when called upon,” says Malcolm. “This is definitely a circumstance in which students are being called upon to examine their behavior and be held accountable for it.”

The Gaulds are not as concerned about the decision of the school as they are about the parents’ reaction to it.

Many parents are deeply offended by Needham’s decision to temporarily suspend some of the girls, even though the school’s stand on hazing is stated clearly in the school handbook. One father laments that the suspension was “more detrimental” to his daughter’s well-being than the incident itself. A godfather of another student says he is “shocked” that the girls were punished so strongly.

“One of the keys to helping our kids develop their character is for parents to stand back and let them,” says Laura. “We are living in an achievement culture in which parents typically storm in to fight every perceived threat to their children’s record of success. This is, in fact, counter-productive to their children’s success.”

“By continually fighting their children’s battles, parents completely miss the war,” Malcolm says. “Success is important, but challenges and failures can teach powerful lifelong lessons leading to profound personal growth. Children will build a successful life on this foundation — not on a trophy sitting on a shelf.”

According to the Gaulds, parents can get caught up in trying to ‘fix’ their children’s problems — disagreements with their teachers, coaches, and so on — instead of seeing the potential for positive learning opportunities.

“It is hard to watch our children struggle with life’s challenges,” says Laura. “When should we step in? When should we step back? This is one of the toughest parenting dilemmas.”

The Gaulds offer a solution.

“When we build a character culture in our schools, and in our homes, the emphasis shifts away from merely winning to one of principle,” says Malcolm. “Yes, it feels great to bring home the game ball — but the truest and most lasting experiences of success in life are those based on who we are as people, what we stand for, and the choices we make. Those are hard facts, and they apply to any situation kids are in, whether in the classroom, at the mall or on the field.”

Character education plays its role in athletics as well. The rugby team at Hyde Leadership Public Charter School in Washington, DC also made headlines — as the subject of a special Fox Sports News documentary on their integrity and teamwork.

Similarly, Junior Bernal was a ‘turnaround kid’ who had a second chance through the principles and priorities taught at Hyde School in Bath, Maine.

An inner-city kid with a seemingly impossible childhood to overcome, he eventually attended and graduated from the University of Maine as a stand-out athlete. Bernal attributes this to learning “life-altering tools” through character education, “like being honest, and genuine, and many things…that if you add them all up, form the groundwork to become a quality human being.”

“This is at the core of character education,” says Malcolm. “It’s not only meant for the classroom, but wherever we are in life — school, work, in our communities and, most of all, when no one is looking.”