“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our Nation.”
John F. Kennedy
At the very heart of ResponsiveEd’s mission is an unwavering commitment to provide hope for students. But what is “hope”? Hope is the desire or expectation that something good will be obtained or fulfilled. By its very nature then, hope conveys a sense of optimism and potential. Unfortunately, for many students, hope is elusive. The “something good” that they desire may not seem attainable, much less expected.
When it comes to hope in the area of education, as in all other areas of life, the “something good” desired by each student is different. For some, the “something good” may be finding a school whose academic program aligns with their unique interests or life circumstances (e.g., classical, credit-recovery, STEM, college-prep, vocational, homeschooling, etc.). For others, it may be finding a school whose instructional methodology complements their particular learning style (e.g., lecture, project-based, Socratic discussion, reading-based, etc.). Still, for others, it may be as simple (and as complex) as finding a school with a culture that reflects their values (e.g., moral education, service-oriented, civics-minded, etc.).
Recognizing that each student desires a different “something good,” ResponsiveEd offers a variety of educational options—options that reflect the diverse interests, goals, and learning styles of our students. Together with innovative programs being offered by so many other public and private educators, we believe that such educational options provide students with more opportunities to obtain the “something good” they desire out of their education.
And while ResponsiveEd may offer a variety of educational options to its students, each option is built on a common foundation—i.e., the promotion of a free society and the cultivation of moral and academic excellence.
Chief Executive Officer
“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education. It has been well said that no system of government gives so much to the individual or exacts so much as a democracy. Upon our educational system must largely depend the perpetuity of those institutions upon which our freedom and our security rest. To prepare each citizen to choose wisely and to enable him to choose freely are paramount functions of the schools in a democracy.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt
From the early days of the nation, public education has played a vital role in American democratic society. In addition to preparing young people for productive work and fulfilling lives, public education has also been expected to accomplish certain collective missions aimed at promoting the common good. These include, among others, preparing youth to become responsible citizens, forging a common culture from a nation of immigrants, and reducing inequalities in American society.
In recent years, however, some of these public-spirited missions of education have been neglected and are in danger of being abandoned. Most current efforts to reform public education have focused on increasing students’ academic achievement—without a doubt, a central purpose of schooling. But the reasons given for why it’s important to improve achievement often stress individual or private economic benefits (such as preparing youth for good jobs in a global economy), rather than public benefits (such as preparing youth for active citizenship in a democratic society). . . .
[Historically,] American public schools have been expected to fulfill certain public missions that go beyond the purely academic purposes of all schools . . . .
Our nation’s founders believed strongly that the success of American democracy depended on the competency of its citizens. A chief reason for public education cited by Jefferson and other early leaders was the need to produce citizens who would understand political and social issues, participate in civic life, vote wisely, protect their rights and freedoms, and keep the nation secure from inside and outside threats.
Developing good citizens includes more than preparing students for their roles as voters. The founders considered strong character and high morals to be essential to good citizenship, and toward that end, public schools of the 19th century offered moral instruction. Today, some schools offer character education, encourage students to volunteer or participate in community life, or teach them how to evaluate information critically and engage in dialogue and debate.
Why We Still Need Public Schools:
Public Education for the Common Good
Center on Education Policy
“We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
American schools have had from their inception a moral mandate. Moral authority, once vested firmly in both our schools and teachers, has receded dramatically over the past few decades. While many teachers are valiantly working to promote good character in their classrooms, many are receiving mixed and confusing messages. Attempts made to restore values and ethics to the school curriculum through values clarification, situational ethics, and discussion of moral dilemmas have proven both weak and ephemeral, failing to strengthen the character and behavior of our young people. Still our schools too often champion rights at the expense of responsibility and self-esteem at the expense of self-discipline.
Distressed by the increasing rates of violence, adolescent suicide, premature sexual activity, and a host of other pathological and social ills assaulting American youth, we propose that schools and teachers reassert their responsibility as educators of character. Schools cannot, however, assume this responsibility alone; families, neighborhoods[,] and faith communities must share in this task together. We maintain that authentic educational reform in this nation begins with our response to the call for character. True character education is the hinge upon which academic excellence, personal achievement, and true citizenship depend. It calls forth the very best from our students, faculty, staff, and parents. We . . . believe the following guiding principles ought to be at the heart of this educational reform:
Principle 1: Education is an Inescapable Moral Enterprise
Education in its fullest sense is inescapably a moral enterprise—a continuous and conscious effort to guide students to know and pursue what is good and what is worthwhile.
Principle 2: Parents
We strongly affirm parents as the primary moral educators of their children and believe schools should build a partnership with the home. Consequently, all schools have the obligation to foster in their students personal and civic virtues such as integrity, courage, responsibility, diligence, service, and respect for the dignity of all persons.
Principle 3: Virtue
Character education is about developing virtues—good habits and dispositions which lead students to responsible and mature adulthood. Virtue ought to be our foremost concern in educating for character….
Principle 4: Teachers, Principals, Staff
The teacher and the school principal are central to this enterprise and must be educated, selected, and encouraged with this mission in mind. In truth, all of the adults in the school must embody and reflect the moral authority which has been invested in them by the parents and the community.
Principle 5: Community
Character education is not a single course, a quick-fix program, or a slogan posted on the wall; it is an integral part of school life. The school must become a community of virtue in which responsibility, hard work, honesty, and kindness are modeled, taught, expected, celebrated, and continually practiced. From the classroom to the playground, from the cafeteria to the faculty room, the formation of good character must be the central concern.
Principle 6: Curriculum
The human community has a reservoir of moral, much of which exists in our great stories, works of art, literature, history, and biography. Teachers and students must together draw from this reservoir both within and beyond the academic curriculum.
Principle 7: Students
Finally, young people need to realize that forging their own character is an essential and demanding life task. And the sum of their school experiences—in success and failures, academic and athletic, intellectual and social—provides much of the raw material for this personal undertaking.
Character education is not merely an educational trend or the school’s latest fad; it is a fundamental dimension of good teaching, an abiding respect for the intellect and spirit of the individual. We need to re-engage the hearts, minds, and hands of our children in forming their own characters, helping them “to know the good, love the good, and do the good.” That done, we will truly be a nation of character, securing “liberty and justice for all.”