I was reading today about the importance of having a “good character” – perceived to be vital to success in school and life. Schools in England are being encouraged to embed character education and resilience across their curriculum while there is a move towards service learning, a combination of formal classroom teaching and community service. Coincidentally I noticed a post in a forum from a member looking to develop good character and asking for suggestions for positive role models for children, characters they could aspire to. The replies included Dora the Explorer and David Beckham. I have no axe to grind with either of these and accept that they have positive attributes, and, indeed the poster did ask for “well known figures”, however I am concerned that we would consider cartoon characters and wealthy, “celebrity” footballers as role models.
The media does play a large role in modelling character and behaviour to our children however, yet they often focus on the negative aspects of society, money grabbing bankers, drug taking athletes, corrupt FIFA officials. I have never been a Weakest Link or Apprentice fan simply because I don’t find enjoy watching people being denigrated and humiliated, whether they have signed up for it or not. Politics is another area where backbiting , jeering and confrontation is the norm. Debate and discussion is one thing, arguing for political points another.
For me, if children are to develop good character we should all lead by example and the people we should be suggesting as role models to children are the normal, ordinary people they see every day. In our community there are a huge number of people who go that extra mile. Our village gala day is next week and the gala committee are all ordinary people who work together, for no personal reward, to raise funds and organise a fun filled day for our community. Our community centre is managed by volunteers, community groups such Brownies and Beavers are led by volunteers. Within our playgroup children see their parents on our committee, working to keep our group running. They are so proud to report when their mum/dad/granny etc is on duty and see them taking their turn and helping out. Last Christmas we undertook to do Advent Kindnesses, randomly delivering mince pies and Christmas bulbs to villagers, adding get well messages to prescription collections in the shop, decorating the village notice board. Simple acts of kindness which develop our children’s relationships with community and across the generations, which develop their character capabilities and encourage their active citizenship skills. All the buzz words and phrases which really just mean grow up to be decent people.
If we want our children to develop “good character” then I’d go back to the old Biblical philosophy of “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you” and show them what good character is – I’d far rather our children look to realistic, accessible and achievable role models rather than some overpaid sports personality or cartoon character.