Last week a F/friend recommended the book The Road to Character by David Brooks, and mentioned that there was going to be a discussion on Book-TV (aka “C-SPAN 2” on weekdays). I taped it but didn’t have time to watch until this weekend.
One of the things that stuck with me was the difference he draws between building your obituary (or resume – they’re virtually the same) and building your eulogy. It made me wonder which we’re stressing for our students.
We do a lot of talking about building a resume or portfolio for college, stressing that students need to think about community service and volunteering, doing that service trip to some poverty-stricken area, considering some foreign travel so they have cross-cultural experiences, perhaps getting a summer internship, or taking a leadership position within the school, in addition to doing well on APs and other tests. The more “unique” your profile, the better it is for college. And once in college, there are internships and more, all to make you desirable to an employer. Since few of them will stay with one company, in one position, for their entire work career, continuing that resume building is critical. And then there’s civic engagement, joining the PTA or Lions, becoming a volunteer EMT or running for local office. It’s all about a list of accomplishments that can lift them to the next level until, finally, it’s a list of what they did that can be printed in a newspaper (assuming that newspapers are around at that point).
But what about teaching them to build their eulogy? Were they kind to strangers? Do they seek out new students to show them how to fit into their new environment? Do they radiate love for others? Are they honorable? Trustworthy? What will people say about them at their funeral/memorial service? Or, even closer to their lives, what do their teachers and friends say about them when creating a recommendation or speaking about them at an awards ceremony or other event where they are being honored? Are they living lives that inspire others to be like them? (Forgiving, of course, those moments when they have a bad day, or makes mistakes – as we all do.)
Mr. Brooks makes the point that we rarely have conversations or use language about morality and creating that moral compass. Our lives, and those of our students, should be less about Facebook “likes” and more about real life appreciation and admiration.
In our conversations and teachings, especially when the topic is digital citizenship, we often stress the importance of not bullying, or trolling, or building our self-esteem on what people say or post about it. How often do we turn that to non-digital citizenship? How can we start having those discussions without sounding overly moralistic, preachy or like an old-fogey? And what books can we put in our collections that inspire these qualities without being overly moralistic, preachy, etc.?