GAULD'S SPEECH ACCEPTING THE "SANDY AWARD".
I feel very deeply honored to receive this award. It also brought me a special gift I'd like to share.
As a teacher/coach on New Year's Eve in 1962, I experienced a crisis of conscience. I did not believe our educational system was the best way to help kids realize their potentials and prepare them for life.
In my calculus class for example, I was trying to tell a 14 year old "genius" his attitude would crucify him in life, then giving him my highest grade! I also told my hardest working student to trust that his character would someday fulfill his dream of becoming a top engineer, while giving him my lowest grade!
Years later, I discovered the "genius" was long unemployed, despite graduating from MIT with an "A" average, while the other kid ultimately won several engineering awards.
So 1963 began my search for a better way to prepare kids for life, with the goal of seeing American education revolutionized.
Well, it has turned out to be a very long journey with the goal today not even in sight. At age 89, I have, maybe a 10 year window left in which to finish this work.
My life has been preoccupied with this journey. But this award got me to stop, and admire the beautiful view. And I find that beauty in the character of people I have met along the way, and who I greatly admire, respect and love.
The award suddenly reunited me with Julia Douglas now Julia Posey. Julia first nominated me for this award and shared my fervor both while at Hyde and at later at Character.org.
She was joined by Tom Lickona and Matt Davidson, those powerhouses of character, who have been there so many times for support. Plus Joanne Goubourn, executive director of the Hyde Foundation, who has shared my commitment since she was a 13-year-old freshman in Hyde's 1st class of girls in 1971.
To add a personal note, seated at my table at the awards ceremony were Joanne and my daughter Laurie--Executive Director of Independent Schools of Northern New England--who were classmates along with my son Malcolm--now my boss at Hyde--who was a senior at the same time at Hyde. Also there to share this moment were my granddaughters-Mahalia and Scout Gauld. My daughter Gigi could not attend because she was back attending to Hyde's parents' weekend.
Added to the honor of this award and the joy of sharing the moment with family and friends, is the distinction of being recognized to honor Sandy McDonnell--who, to me, is a true American hero. Coming from a distinguished American family and corporation, Sandy set out to basically strengthen the character of America.
To me, Sandy was a powerful breath of fresh air that I came to greatly admire and respect, from the two meetings we had here in Washington D.C. that ultimately led to Sandy founding Character.org. We maintained a life-long friendship and his interest in Hyde's development, particularly in Hyde's Brother's Keeper Principle, was inspirational.
Finally, I feel especially honored to receive this award from an organization I have come to believe may well be the major contributor to character development in America today.
In the early years, I was somewhat critical of Character.org, but over the last 25 years, Hyde's work in public schools made us realize the very real challenge of developing true character programs in our present system of education.
Here is what I'd like to leave behind. But first, please realize I believe we have the right people in education today; they just need a better system to help them realize their true potentials.
They need a system that emphasizes growth over achievement--a focus on who students are over what they can do--one that motivates primarily by curiosity not competition, one that addresses the whole child and not just the mind. As Aristotle said: "Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all."
People sitting here know if we seriously address student character, we are not going to have the cheating, bullying, lack of community and mediocrity present in our schools today.
Schools are for children. But our primary cognitive focus fits adult potentials and vision, not children's. Kahlil Gibran reminds us: children's "souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams." Children need a broader educational focus to develop their potentials and inspire their development--like Hyde's founding principle: Every individual is gifted with a unique potential that defines a destiny.
The primary means to develop unique potential are specific qualities of character. Hyde utilizes Curiosity, Courage, Concern, Leadership and Integrity. But whatever the qualities, character development deals with the whole child, while cognitive development, one of its subsets, does not. The tail cannot wag the dog--which is why present education cannot deal with character problems like cheating and bullying.
I would also like to share the most significant character development discoveries of the Hyde experiment over the past 50 years, though these discoveries are difficult to replicate in an achievement, rather than a growth, system.
1. How much responsibility can students--particularly teenagers--take in their own education? Our society--and certainly the adolescent world--largely has an "I don't snitch on my buddies" ethic, not unlike the organized crime. Hyde strives to instill our Brother's Keeper Principle--"We help each other achieve our best" (which was Sandy's main interest in Hyde) in all members of the Hyde community. Once students internalize this principle, they can truly be trusted to assume school responsibilities--a sign of true leadership.
2. We found character is primarily taught by example. Character growth is a life-long process, so teachers and adults need to share the same growth journey as their students, and by sharing their personal challenges and strengths, they build a deeper bond of trust with their students, and inspire them in the process.
3. After tracing the progress of Hyde grads in college and life, we found the greatest influence on their progress was not Hyde, but their parents and family. So in spite of being a boarding school, we told parents we'd help them raise their kids, and began a required program to regularly address parental growth and family issues--the most rewarding teaching in my 65-year career.
While Hyde public schools can't require parents to participate, a majority of parents do, helping create a united school-community. In our Hyde Bronx School in a district where only 47% graduate from high school, 93% of our 1st class was accepted to college, and four years later, over 50% had received college degrees, 5 times the average for similar communities.
A major Harvard study found 96% of parents "cited the development of moral character as 'very important, if not essential.'" Once parents get beyond societal achievement values, this has been Hyde's experience with parents.
So I am presently working on a public school project that would accept not students, but families, by lottery, knowing they will ultimately support and participate in our character curriculum.
I am convinced that America can and must unite its families and schools to fulfill its destiny, most particularly in disadvantaged communities.
Studies clearly show the fundamental difference between the academic performance of privileged and disadvantaged students is heavily dependent upon strength of their families and communities. Further, the present system emphasizes academic skills, which are disadvantaged students' greatest weakness. However, begin with developing their greatest potential--family and community--and their own confidence and motivation will strongly contribute to making them better students as well as better people.
Putting the primary emphasis on character and family and not on the intellect far better serves the deeper needs of growing children. As a single example, children don't begin to think logically and abstractly until age 11, so a primary focus on their minds does not serve them well.
Beyond addressing their "head-heart-soul" potentials, Hyde students experience a Rigor-Synergy-Conscience Process:
Rigor: How we challenge ourselves and what we put into our growth.
Synergy: 1+1=3; others see our best and our unique potential in ways we do not. We learn to accept and give help.
Conscience: Our ability to rely upon others develops the humility to transcend our egos and listen to Conscience: The compass of our Destiny. We are led in life by our deepest selves--conscience, intuition, insight, plus intellect. Thus we enable our unique potential to express a meaningful and fulfilling life.
Before closing, I wish to mention the outstanding work that Dr. Bob Hassinger has done in adapting the Hyde "Discovery Group" to his entire school system in Halifax, Pennsylvania, and in the neighboring Upper Dauphin system.
I visited these two school systems last year and was tremendously impressed with the spirit of the students and staff.
Lastly, this old soldier deeply appreciates this chance to sound off. But... I am not finished yet! There is much work that I still want to do.
I am honored and humbled to be recognized among you as we all continue the work to make character the defining difference for our young people and our nation. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
* Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: Joseph W. Gauld, Founder, Hyde School firstname.lastname@example.org
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|Publication:||Journal of Character Education|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2016|
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