Woodbury Reports Archives


The Internet's leading source of information on emotional growth schools & programs

Free eAlerts

 For FREE updates... 
enter your email
address and click

Online News
Site Links

News & Views - Aug, 1992 Issue 

Character Development: A School's Primary Task.
By Joseph W. Gauld

Reprinted from the Wall Street Journal,
Wednesday, April 1, 1992, Eastern Edition
Mr. Gauld is president of the Hyde Foundation

The educational mafia has never understood that all learning begins with the development of character and a sense of purpose. Take World War II, when Congress voted a free college education for returning GIs. Academia was horrified; no less than the president of the University of Chicago darkly warned that these obviously academically unprepared vulgarians would turn our universities into “educational hobo jungles”. In fact, the GIs ended up being hailed as the best students in our collegiate history.

This experience tells us that if we take care of character, academic achievement will follow. But I was long duped by the mafia’s enshrinement of academic achievement. When I taught advanced-placement calculus 30 years ago, I gave my highest grade to a lazy and arrogant 14-year-old genius, while trying to convince him he was totally unprepared for life, and my lowest to a dedicated but discouraged kid, while trying to convince him his character and drive might someday make him the best engineer in class. The first did graduate from MIT with an “A” average at 18, but he has long been unemployed. The second became a top engineer.

This academic achievement-over-character craziness finally came to a head for me while I was interviewing a wild-eyed youngster for admissions to the boarding school at which I then taught. Gordy was totally unqualified-below-average IQ and flunking all of his courses. But he was a spirited “street-smart” kid who desperately wanted a chance, so I took him anyway. His rebel spirit proved a challenge to the faculty, but eventually he gained a doctorate in psychology and founded a family learning center.

Years later, in 1966, I founded the Hyde School in Bath, Maine, to shift fully the educational focus from subject content to student character. Hyde assumes each youngster to be gifted with a “unique potential”, thus making our boarding school’s mission to help each student develop the necessary character-courage, integrity, concern for others, curiosity, leadership, to fulfill this larger purpose in life.

The 25-year-old experiment has prepared youngsters for life. And over the past six years, 97% of Hyde’s graduates have gone on to four-year colleges. But we did have to break new ground, particularly in learning how to improve parenting. In fact, we found we needed to refocus the entire educational process on first strengthening the family.

We at Hyde are now setting up Hyde public-school models, one of which is slated to open in September in Gardiner, Maine. Similar models are expected to open, probably in Indianapolis, IN, Winston-Salem, N.C., and Springfield, Mass. Each will require a commitment from student, parent and teacher alike to honor Hyde principles at home and at school.

We find that most of what adults currently do in most schools could and should be handled by the students themselves. All Hyde students in Maine hold school responsibilities and jobs. And they relentlessly maintain a commitment to one another’s best interest (e.g., students may ask a fellow student without homework to leave class; they will require those who violate school ethics-by smoking, for example-to turn themselves in). Students readily respond to these new responsibilities. Yet most of our schools today expect the same teenagers who manage our convenience stories and fast-food restaurants to get a lateness pass signed by an adult-just like a third-grader.

The Hyde curriculum is based on designing a full set of experiences to challenge each student's character and unique potential; then providing journal-writing exercises, self-help groups, counseling and other means to help each student examine and reflect upon his actions and behavior. This leads to changes and new challenges, and the cycle is repeated once again. All students take a rigorous liberal arts program and participate in athletics, performing arts, community service and leadership responsibilities. The Hyde public-school models will extend the school day to 4:30 to accommodate these programs.

We also have learned a profound respect for "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree". When Dad becomes open and less defensive, so will Junior; when Mom accepts a new challenge, so will Suzie; and so on. Parent seminars are conducted monthly in 19 regions nationally and parents attend three four-day family seminars at the school yearly in which they work on personal growth and family issues. We believe this work is the key to improving American education.

Hyde defines a basic family as at least "one committed adult and one growing child". We find a mentor for youngsters who want to join but lack a committed parent. Skeptics think most American parents won't accept such a challenge. But in Springfield, Massachusetts, the first city tested for interest in the public-school program, we had 650 preliminary family applications for 150 projected places.

What is the teacher's role at Hyde? All operate as guidance counselors for students, parents and families. Since character is taught by example, teachers also have seminars to help one another work on both personal and professional growth. Teachers are openly evaluated by students, which is surprisingly effective in confirming teacher strengths and improvements. (Remember, Hyde students are partners in school operations.)

Address the entire character of youngsters; re-involve the family; create a dynamic parent-teacher-student partnership; then teach academic subjects. This approach will help move American students to first place in the world.

Copyright © 1992, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

PO Box 1671 | Bonners Ferry, ID 83805 | 208-267-5550
Copyright © 1995-2017 by Strugglingteens,LLC. All rights reserved.    Privacy Policy