For decades when the idea of public education was born, the focus was reading, writing and arithmetic. These three key areas of education were expected to help a young mind to grow and learn and become a productive member of society. Along with those concrete lessons, students naturally learned how to become not just productive members of society, but good members as well.
Somehow, over the passage of time, educators began to expand the purpose of schools and decided to incorporate other lessons that seemed to have little bearing on the core subjects that had evolved over time. Along with the science, history and algebra, students were taught the finer arts and home economics as well as being exposed to some of the trades. All of these were laudable efforts to help form well-rounded students who could start to envision a brighter future with seemingly endless opportunities to pursue their dreams and goals.
However, during just the past few years, there has been a shift in some of the core educational topics as more and more school districts have introduced the concept of grading children on character traits and social intelligence. Decades ago, many elementary school teachers included a brief message on the quarterly report cards that would briefly describe the child’s progress in social behavior and character development. Even though teachers would note a child’s progress as being either positive or negative, a child was not assigned a numerical value on such subjective ideas.
That has changed now that many schools are choosing to grade a child on seven key character traits: gratitude, optimism, self-control, curiosity, grit, social intelligence and zest. The concept was developed and implemented by the KIPP Character schools. It has been decided by certain educators that it is now a teacher’s job to shape and form a child’s character through grades and lesson plans that are geared toward imparting the desired character trait. This all begs the question of who decides what embodies a particular character trait and how can it be effectively measured through a numerical grading system?
What exactly constitutes the subjective ‘social intelligence’? How can an idea be measured? How can a lesson plan or writing assignment impart the trait to a child so that he or she can make that trait an integral part of his or her own character? What if a child is an introvert by nature and his or her way of demonstrating “grit” is simply showing up in class and participating on an infrequent basis? How does a teacher glimpse into the heart and mind of a child and determine whether he or she is grateful?
How does a parent respond to their son or daughter’s poor grade in zest? Or how does one motivate a child to demonstrate curiosity? Maybe if teachers could be permitted to focus on the core subjects while exposing children to opportunities to show compassion and kindness toward others, then they will naturally acquire the desired character traits.
Writer Bio: Angela Mose
I am a mom of 7 who has successfully homeschooled for 20 years. I was married for more than 25 years and have recently started my life over. I have a passion for writing and music and when the two can be combined, it is utopia. A Maryland native, I am planning to relocate north in the near future and will continue to strive to learn and experience new things on a regular basis. I am fortunate enough to be able to work from home while exploring new ways to increase my knowledge and skills and help improve the lives of those around me.