We put these terrific well done (window dressing) character counts posters and pillars up in the cafeteria, as though character can be taught rather than learned. Within weeks many of the letters had been peeled off the pillars and some of the posters defaced. Maybe the kids were counting calories instead of character in the lunchroom. Trust had become “rust,” Respect – “Rest,” Fairness just, “fair,” and in a truly ironic twist Citizenship had finally become “hip.” The idea that character is taught through posters, slogans and give away programs for doing what is right has always escaped me but it did lead to an illustrative classroom experience one day.
I had left some candy on my desk that had been donated to the school to be used as a reward for a” random acts of kindness,” program” (of course if we were still doing this we couldn’t use candy anymore the nutrition police have taken care of that) The candy disappeared from my desk during a passing period. Where it had gone was later identified by the volume and types of candy wrappers left on, in and around a desk in my room (crooks are rarely smart). The thief, when questioned, stated righteously in his own defense. “If you didn’t want me to take it you shouldn’t have left it where I could see it.” Not an uncommon response over the years…. i.e. it was just laying there I didn’t know whose it was so I took it!
I didn’t know what to do. Was he displaying good character by admitting his bad character? Should I give him another piece of candy? I determined that with that attitude his character had already been rewarded. And I instead of “character” in his remarks, I saw through in his words yet one more sign that the Apocalypse is upon us.