Committing to Character Education

For years, the Birmingham Public School district has prided itself on its character education efforts.

   There is even a tab on the Birmingham Public Schools web page designated to the districts character education accomplishments.

   According to the website, character education is a “cornerstone” of Birmingham Public Schools.

   But does a community of character really exist in the eyes of Seaholm students?

   While most of Birmingham’s elementary schools boast a list of 5-6 national character education awards, Seaholm scrapes by with one promising practice award from 2011.

   Current character education plans, proposed at the May 7 board of education meeting, include incorporating character education into health class curriculum.

   While this is a descent proposal, character education cannot be fully effective unless it is introduced to students on a daily basis.

   Birmingham’s approach to character education should start in kindergarten and become an integral part of the curriculum throughout every grade level.

   Health class in Birmingham high schools typically occurs in seventh and eleventh grade. If the goal is to create a community of character, it is necessary to have more than two classes within a four-year span.

   If students can barely remember what they did at the beginning of the trimester, they are certainly not going to retain information from seventh grade throughout their high school careers.

   Senior Sarah Levett feels that character education has been completely absent throughout her time at Birmingham public schools.

   “Uhh, what character education program?” Levett said.

   While the halls echoed with positive community-building messages in the few days following Challenge Day, all was, essentially, lost after two weeks.

   Conversations went from “I really liked learning about people I barely knew” back to “Yeah, that’s so gay” in the matter of a week.  And after two weeks had passed, it was like nothing had ever happened.

   This quick change in attitude only proves the need for a constant focus on character education throughout the school year and throughout a student’s educational career.

   This change is possible. Obviously everyday cannot be Challenge Day, but character education could become a part of the classroom setting.

   It’s true that high school curriculum is intensive and requires a ton of focus, but if change is truly a priority, character education is going to require this same kind of focus.

   This could include a weekly grade-wide assembly that offers discussion groups with students and teachers.

   Although this would require using valuable class time, something like this would accomplish exactly what the district wishes to move towards, a true sense of community between everyone who is part of the Birmingham Public School district.

   Discussion groups would also introduce students to people they may not normally converse with. Although awkward at first, this forces students into interacting with different types of people in an open setting.

   More than anything, repetition has been proven to form habits.

   If these open dialogue groups become an integral part of the Seaholm schedule, being open minded and socializing in daily life is bound to become habit of Seaholm students.

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