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Character Lessons From Lance Armstrong and Steubenville

I may be Education Week's resident sports expert, but I'm not the only source of K-12 sports takes on edweek.org.

Yesterday, we ran a Commentary on Lance Armstrong and teaching students the meaning of integrity, written by Joseph W. Gauld, the founder of the Hyde Schools.
Gauld believes the Lance Armstrong steroid scandal "symbolizes a sophisticated trend toward achievement that accepts immorality." He traces this back to the classroom, where he's seen "a steady erosion of the development of character in our schools and homes as we frantically seek a test-proven academic proficiency."

If Armstrong used bullying and cheating to rise to the top of his field, Gauld wonders, how can we ensure that students don't assume similar tactics are OK once they become adults?

He has one idea:

"While it is not easy to deal with behaviors like cheating, lying, and bullying, how to do it is simple: Make it a priority. Put character over achievement. As it is now, American students get a clear message that their academic achievement is more important than whether or not they cheat, lie, or bully."

Essentially, making character a higher priority both in schools and at home could help shape the next generation in a more positive light, he argues.

You'll find a similar argument in our Of, By, For opinion blog, where Sam Chaltain wrote earlier this week on the Steubenville rape case, which involved high school football players.

Chaltain says that while parents play a central role "in helping their children develop a clear sense of right and wrong," educators can contribute, too.

"As educators, we have a responsibility to think long and hard about what kind of people we hope will graduate from our schools—and what sorts of skills and dispositions those people will need to embody—and then make sure the work we are doing each day (and the standards to which we hold ourselves accountable) are aligned with that vision."

Luckily, Chaltain notes, this is already happening in schools across the country. All it takes is a community deciding "that the holistic development and growth of children matters more than anything else," he says.

"While all of us are born with the potential to behave compassionately, none of us is able to do so without the benefit of strong support, clear guidance, and a supportive network of adults that believe characteristics like empathy are not merely soft skills—they're benchmarks of what we aspire, on our best days, to become."

For more about what's next in the Steubenville rape case, check out this post of mine from earlier this week.

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