Author: Brian Emmet, New Covenant School Chaplain
Our English word character derives from a Greek word meaning to engrave or inscribe upon. Unlike “personality,” which can be used to describe something fairly superficial, character describes who we are—or who we are not—at a deep level.
To ignore “character development” does not mean that our characters will not be developed; it means that what gets inscribed most deeply into our hearts and minds and desires will largely come from the popular culture that washes around us all the time. The tools that will engrave into the souls of our children how they think about what it means to be a “good person” or to have a “good family” or to lead a “good life” will be operated by the makers of Homer Simpson, Modern Family, Apple Computer, Victoria’s Secret, the Disney Corporation, popular musicians, Facebook, Twitter and the National Football League.
New Covenant School takes character education seriously. That means we don’t teach it as one “subject” among many others; it pervades all that we do. We begin each day as a worshipping community, because what we worship (and every human being is a worshipper) is what gets inscribed most deeply upon our hearts. We express it through our “six words of servanthood”: courage, humility, respect, integrity, seeker of God and teachability. We use these words as “lenses” through which we view all that we do day by day, particularly how we engage with and treat one another. We intend that all of our students become great—on Jesus’ terms: “If you would be great in God’s kingdom, learn to be the servant of all.” We stress to ourselves that we have not truly finished our learning until we have used what we’ve learned to serve others.
In the end, we cannot separate what we know and can do from who we are: being and doing belong together. While it’s good to be a “human doing,” it is better by far to become a “human being.” That’s matter of character more than accomplishment.