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Opinion & Essays - Dec, 1993 (#25) 

The Hyde School Difference
Joseph W. Gauld, author
Hyde School (Maine) founder
published 1993
reviewed by: Linda Shaffer

Joseph W. Gauld, Founder of the Hyde School and pioneer of CHARACTER-based education, has finally told in print the Hyde School story. Others, besides successful Hyde graduates, seem to be interested such as Public school districts around the country, and M. Scott Peck, author of THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED, and Cher.

Cher? Yes, Cher, who wrote the Foreword in Gauld's book and whose son graduated from Hyde. And M. Scott Peck who added his name and the following quote to the back of the book's jacket. "This revolutionary book on education is about doing it differently -- about real community and civility in teaching; about teaching through relationship rather than rote, authenticity rather than role, agonizing discernment rather than formula; and ultimately about ESSENCE RATHER THAN SUPERFICIALS."

CHARACTER FIRST tells the world there is something very important missing from today's schools -- the values of courage, integrity, leadership, curiosity, and honest concern. Several public school districts, one finds from the reading, have mustered up the courage to travel that road less traveled by trying on Hyde concepts and standards.

Gauld, through the Hyde Foundation and CHARACTER FIRST, offers American schools "a guiding philosophy and unified sense of purpose." This book is an opportunity to review his 27 year effort at putting character first so that academic achievement could naturally follow.

Hyde School embraces the family-student partnership. For years Hyde families have known that enrolling their child at this pioneering school in Bath, Maine has been an enrollment of the whole family.

As Cher relates in the Foreword, "There is no way you can be prepared for the experience of being a Hyde parent. Hyde parents have to work hard on their own growth in order to help their kids grow.... What I have gained from my experience at Hyde I wouldn't trade for anything in the world.... When (Elijah) graduates, he will take with him a rich set of values and skills that will guide him the rest of his life." And about Joe Gauld, Cher says "Joe Gauld is a rare individual. His perceptions about people are uncanny, and his vision of education is desperately needed in this country."

As Gauld puts forth his vision of what American education COULD be for more young people, he says that our present system is a relic of a former age, and that his book is meant to stir the revolt and to propose another path -- Character First.

In developing character and discovering unique potential, the Hyde concept presents lots to ponder

The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.

Know thyself, and become what you are.

The Hyde motto--Courage, Integrity, Concern, Curiosity, and Leadership.

Humility: We trust in a power and purpose beyond ourselves. (a quality Gauld proposes is these days at the bottom of America's list of values.)

Brother's Keeper: Requires students to hold one another accountable for achieving their best by challenging the "I-don't-rat-on-my-buddies" ethic.

Community Action at Hyde offers its students opportunities to "make the transition from being takers to becoming givers--and thus receivers, too."

The need for true teachers to lead by example by sharing with students and each other their professional and personal lives. Gauld quotes from Kahlil Gibran, the true teacher "gives not of his wisdom but of his faith and his lovingness." Once teachers at Hyde adopted this path, they were perceived by students as credible and real people rather than as the font of all knowledge.

When they first come to Hyde, kids think it is ridiculous to be put on work crew to do more productive thinking. However, as the proverb says, I DO--AND I UNDERSTAND.

Spiritual growth is all about making a difference and leaving the world a better place.

Hyde holds with reverence Gibran's words that although children begin life totally dependent upon us, we do not own them; we are assistants to a power greater than ourselves. We must resist raising our children in our own image, for the purpose of their lives is beyond our comprehension.

Children learn by the EXAMPLE of their parents, not by the sermons -- or explosive threats intended to elicit submission when the parent knows he has questionable INFLUENCE and goes for the power he recalls exerting over the little child.

When you think you are honest and you revere the truth, it is not easy to locate your own lies.

Spiritual parenting requires not that parents be perfect, but that they pursue courage and honesty and demonstrate a willingness to grow along with their children.

One's true worth is measured, not by social status, intellect, or talents, but by the strength of their character.

There IS a lot to ponder in CHARACTER FIRST. This copy of Joe Gauld's book came across my desk from a parent I was working with in a school placement consultation. This man's son had departed enough times from Hyde that another plan was needed and we successfully worked that out. Hyde may still be in the picture a little farther down the road for that young man.

The family who sent me the book I know had a very difficult time removing themselves directly from the Hyde family experience. I sense from the father's comments about the school that they would give only the highest marks to the emotional growth as well as academic opportunities at Hyde.

I find CHARACTER FIRST important reading for all of us who are assessing what education is. And, as a reader, I find Joe Gauld's openness in print about some of his own family's personal challenges courageous and refreshing and a demonstration of the integrity of the Hyde School philosophy.

CHARACTER FIRST is filled with concepts that could transform American schools as it also challenges the humility, honesty, courage, and wisdom of American families, maybe even make a real difference in The World. Eh, not a bad legacy!

Copyright 1993, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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