89 posts categorized "Education Policy"

January 28, 2012

Crime and punishment at school: where is the line?

By Jessica Kelmon, Associate Editor

Can a six-year-old be suspended for sexual assault? In Hercules, CA, the answer is yes. The question, however, is whether it’s sane.

Schools need to be safe – there’s no question about that. To see cases of kids bullying other kids, you only have to open your eyes (or read here, or watch here). But in searching for a way to deal with bullying, some educators are going too far. Zero-tolerance policies, for instance, can be used to punish the victim who finally fights back, or cause principals to seriously overreact. I’m no fan of ‘kids will be kids’ as an answer to bullying behavior – but it seems the pendulum has swung from one extreme to another.

Case in point: the six-year-old who was suspended for “sexual assault” (that phrase was written in his record by the principal). An article by Scott James tells the story well, but essentially it goes like this: two boys were playing tag at recess, and one boy’s hand touched or grazed the other’s upper thigh (or maybe the groin – it’s unclear). That boy was suspended. The official write-up: “Committed or attempted to commit a sexual assault or sexual battery.”

The suspended child’s mom was confused, so she turned to her local online parenting group, which is known for its active community and abundance of advice. Her child, she says, was playing tag. “He doesn’t know what he did wrong,” she says. She worried that this language in her son’s permanent record would follow him for life. After getting supportive responses about the principal being out of line and hearing similar stories of suspensions for hugging, she hired a lawyer. Now, her child’s record has been expunged and he’s been transferred to a new school.

A couple of interesting facts that play into this: 1) In California, kids need to be in at least fourth grade for the “intent” for such an act. 2) As one of James’ sources, a child psychologist, noted, it’s quite normal and common for kids to touch each other on the genitals out of curiosity. He stressed that it’s a cause for concern if the behavior continues after he’s told it’s inappropriate. But it doesn’t sound like anyone (principal or parent) had this conversation with the boy. (His own mom says he doesn’t know why he’s been punished.)

In the worst case scenario, this child did inappropriately and purposefully touch the other child in a bullying or victimizing capacity. But even in this case, the "perpetrator" is six.  SIX!   More likely, though, this child was inordinately punished by an overreacting principal. Either way: did anyone learn anything here? After all, this did happen at school.

January 18, 2012

"A for effort" no longer a consolation prize

By Jessica Kelmon, Associate Editor

I played violin as a kid. And I was fantastic – at least, I thought I was. My clear memory is of childhood greatness, the next Hilary Hahn. My mom begs to differ, however. "No," she told me recently at a family event. "You really weren’t very good, it was just a really positive, experimental type of class." Huh. It’s hard to reconcile her version with my memory. Probably because the teacher kept telling me how great I was.

And that, in a nutshell, is a problem in schools today – at least according to Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, whose work is based on a growing area of research on how good and bad praise affects a child’s motivation.

For decades, schools have been all about building self-esteem and handing out "empty praise." 'You’re so smart,' was the ultimate accolade, while 'A for effort' was like second prize in a beauty contest. But a growing body of research  is making clear that adults' good intentions to bolster kids' self-esteem is resulting in a generation of kids who are  "praise junkies," afraid to try new challenges that could jeopardize their head-of-the-class reps. It’s the unspecific, over-the-top ("You’re so smart!" "You’re the best!") praise that can hinder kids' education, while specific praise for taking risks and tackling difficult tasks ("You worked so hard on that!") helps kids enjoy challenges and be more successful.

A new article in the Washington Post documents how this research is now being understood:

"Children also perform better in the long term when they believe that their intellect is not a birthright but something that grows and develops as they learn new things.

Brain imaging shows how this is true, how connections between nerve cells in the cortex multiply and grow stronger as people learn and practice new skills."

As the Washington Post reports, based on this research educators at a handful of schools across the country are experimenting with new forms of praise that encourages risk-taking and learning from failure. Teachers at a Virginia middle school gave their students a primer on brain development to help the kids understand that they learn better by making new connections and solving problems on their own. Teachers went on to modify their instruction methods, including how and what they praised – curbing their enthusiasm and replacing it with patience while kids work out things on their own. Teachers also were sure to give specific approbation for hard work and effort.

Former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle A. Rhee cites another drawback to general/over-praising: self-assessments that are way off (like mine, with my now questionable violin skills). The Washington Post article includes an anecdote Rhee shares about her kids: "[Rhee] often recounts a story about how her daughters’ many soccer trophies are warping their sense of their athletic abilities. Her daughters 'suck at soccer,' she said in a radio interview last January. 'We’ve become so obsessed with making kids feel good about themselves that we’ve lost sight of building the skills they need to actually be good at things,' Rhee said."

Do you think your kids are victims of empty praise at home or school?

January 11, 2012

Have you heard of clear backpacks?

By Jessica Kelmon, Associate Editor

In the aftermath of the Columbine shooting in 1999, school officials mandated clear backpacks as a safety precaution. Schools in a handful of districts around the country followed suit. In the wake of tragedy, schools panic and do their best to redouble their efforts to ensure kids’ safety. It’s hard to blame them. But do these knee-jerk safety rules provide much (or any) security?

School safety is an ongoing and very real concern. Last week, news broke of a 15-year-old Brownsville, TX boy who was shot by police. The 8th grader brought a (very realistic looking) pellet gun to school. That story is still unfurling, with complicated questions about the boy’s weapon and the police’s actions. Yesterday, an 18-year-old Houston high school student shot a classmate at school. Like the Columbine school shootings, these tragedies again bring to the surface the nationwide question about how to make our schools safe.  

And again, school officials are instituting rules that students must bring only clear backpacks to school. After yesterday’s shooting at North Forest High School, the Superintendent is calling for clear backpacks for all students. That high school, however, already has metal detectors. The metal detectors are reportedly easy to avoid either by coming when they’re not turned on or using a side entrance, rendering them ineffective. But will clear backpacks succeed where metal detectors (or other measures) fail? But what if a weapon were simply hidden in a pencil case/binder/extra sweatshirt inside the clear backpack?  

Clear backpacks aren’t alone in the arena of well-intentioned but questionable safety rules. At a middle school in Houston, TX, students are permitted to bring only factory-sealed water bottles to school. The intent is to keep kids from bringing alcohol (disguised as water or other drinks) to school. A worthy goal, of course, but I’ve already thought of three ways to evade this rule. (Plus, such an environmentally unfriendly rule seems particularly inappropriate in an educational setting.) 

Rules such as this seem well-intentioned but not well thought out. What do you think?

January 05, 2012

How much will college really cost?

By Jessica Kelmon, Associate Editor

As an adult with major (read: crippling) student loans, I want to be a parent who pays for college, and – dare to dream – I think it’d be cool to retire someday. Full disclosure: I’m an optimist. So I’ve been following the news about the student loan crisis with interest – and some nail biting.  Defaults are at record highs and college tuitions keep going up with no sign of the education bubble popping. I read with shock and awe the stories student-borrowers (many in medical fields) have shared about their debt loads. (The comments on this article are particularly jaw-dropping.)

Yet there’s one piece of information that I’ve found wanting: the actual cost of college. Sure, you can google the tuition for UCLA or Harvard or any school, but we all know that college costs range wildly across the country and most parents don't just plunk down full tuition, room, and board without some financial aid. Say what you will about the utility of the Dept. of Education, but they’ve got a shiny new rule that aims to force colleges to answer that question for us all. As of October 2011, all colleges have been required to provide net price calculators

The net price is that elusive amount you’ll actually pay after you’ve been awarded all the grants and scholarships you’ll hopefully get – the amount that’ll have to be covered by savings, subsidized and unsubsidized loans, and, if those don’t cover it, the loan-shark-rate loans that make up the difference. There’s a handy website where you can search for any college and be linked to their mandated net price calculator, if it exists. They explain the net cost as follows:

“For decades, many parents and aspiring college students have begun the process by looking at published costs of enrollment, called the “sticker price.” However, the sticker price for college is often very different from the “net price.” Understanding your expected net price for various colleges is the first step towards making an affordable college choice.”

Despite the DOE's laudable goal, more than 250 colleges have yet to follow this rule, and many parents and future students aren’t aware of this research asset, either. To overcome this PR hurdle, the DOE has set up a contest to get the word out: $1,500 prizes for the three best videos about college net price calculators!  

Like many consumer disclosure rules that aim to create transparency about a complex financial transaction, it's easier said than done. I tried the calculator out on my alma mater (UCLA) and still can’t really find the cost. I punched in some fake-but-reasonable numbers and it generated way more grant money than I know I’d ever get, then proceeded to give an estimated net cost of around $25K per year. In both of the fake scenarios I tried, predicted loan awards were enough to cover this net cost.  However, the devil is in the details. Hover over the “awards,” and you only learn these are the amounts you might be offered: but at a reasonable, subsidized Stafford loan rate or a loan-shark private rate? Remarkably, that info is missing. And either way, the projected amount owed at graduation with capitalized interest and variable interest rates that reset every year? Similarly missing. Sigh.  For parents or students trying to calculate their financial futures, this kind of transparency is as clear as, well, mud.

My request to the DOE: Nice first step; but please enact another rule that connects these dots. Because the monthly payment that’s coming six months out of school and follows you around for a decade? That’s the number we all need to see. 

December 14, 2011

5 worst education trends of 2011

By Jessica Kelmon, Associate Editor

Ch-ch-ch-cheating

It hasn’t been a banner year for academic honesty. Teachers and principals were breaking out their number two pencils, erasing kids’ test errors, and filling in the accurate bubbles themselves in cases of out-and-out cheating by educators in Atlanta and DC. Then, at an “exemplary” school in Dallas, the principal tried a different tack. Dubbed “second-degree cheating” (um, what is that?), the principal ordered all hands on deck to boost math and reading scores, giving the shaft to every other subject – the students learned no music, no art, no science, no social studies, no foreign language, no PE. Just math and English.

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that many kids aren’t quite sure what really constitutes cheating, either. According to a recent study, 71 percent of the students surveyed don’t think copying from a website is “serious cheating;” more than half don’t consider cheating a big deal; almost all had allowed another kid to copy their homework.

Did I miss the new sliding scale for cheating? Who’s proselytizing this movement, and may I suggest a catchy name: the New Honesty?

Beggars can’t be choosers

As homeowners, cities, states, and as a nation, we’re refusing to adequately fund education, and as a result, schools are accepting money from wherever it hails – this 5th grader’s allowance, this Superintendent’s salary and benefits, and even the white space that once graced the back of report cards (and is now lucratively populated with ad slots).

And for the “lucky” teachers who’ve kept their jobs amid all the cuts – without pay increases, and with decreases for some – more and more teachers are taking second jobs. This trend isn't new but it's on the rise: about 11 percent of teachers were moonlighting in the early 80s, it’s more like one in five now. Nothing like running into the math teacher tending bar at a local restaurant or the second grade teacher selling appliances on the weekend to inspire a child to put a lot of value on education.

Obesity runaround – with no actual running, of course

It’s an epidemic – and it’s not funny. But how we’re trying to combat obesity in schools – and epically failing – is, kind of. We’re banning soda (but not sugar-filled juice drinks), sanctifying chocolate milk, having national debates about whether pizza sauce 'counts' as a vegetable, measuring BMI once every couple of years. And where, might you ask, is the exercise component? Oh, yeah, we’re cutting PE and recess.

Sure, this takes us back to the issue of education funding, but it really doesn’t cost much to run laps. And all those food policy debates and program changes aren’t free. This year I visited a school where recess and PE were replaced with a strategic games program. While I mourned the loss of free play for those kids, at least I got to see them running around. At other schools, the kids aren’t so lucky. According to the Right to Recess campaign, 50 percent of kids don’t get recess. The CDC’s Childhood Obesity Facts page lists three bullet points for prevention – the third calls out schools as a place for kids to learn healthy physical activity behaviors. How’s that working out?

Online idiocy

The internet is wonderful, but our online behavior isn’t. In fact, it’s atrocious – and it’s coming back to haunt us (or worse). Sadly, students aren't learning this lesson quickly enough – and neither are their teachers. Should we bring back etiquette classes? Kids are sexting racy messages and pictures back and forth – with consequences ranging from public humiliation to charges filed for sexual misconduct. Teachers are posting diatribes and making sarcastic cracks about their students on Facebook – and losing their jobs for it.

Personally, I hold the adults’ bad judgment against them, but I have more sympathy for the teens. Maybe they should realize their actions are visible to all; maybe they should have more reverence for their futures – but maybe we’re not guiding them well enough. In fact, I know we’re not – because text messaging lingo is seeping into school essays (even college app essays!) and colleges are checking out online profiles (yes, that means Facebook!) as part of their admissions process. Sorry, Charlie, your dream of attending Great Future University is out the window due to a series of disgusting posts. Plus, “btw” has no place in an admissions essay. L8r.

Animal parenting

Why oh why must you be a certain character from the animal kingdom? Tiger mom started it all, of course, and she offers an interesting approach. But do we need Panda dad (which sounds pretty close to middle-class American dad to me), Lion dad, Pussycat mom, Eagle mom … the list goes on and on? Frankly, no.

These aren’t even really about parenting or a child’s success – no matter what your definition of success is – anymore. They’ve spiraled out of control, into a realm that’s self-serving and fame-seeking. Please make it stop.

December 02, 2011

It’s not an educational problem, it’s a cultural issue

By Jessica Kelmon, Associate Editor

“In this country, we celebrate two obsessions: sports and entertainment.”

That’s Dean Kamen’s compelling opener in the interview embedded below. He continues:

“And little kids, by the time they’re 10 or 12 years old – particularly women and minorities in this country – see the only exciting careers being the NBA, the NFL, or Hollywood.”

How true. When my nephew was 6 years old, I had a rather intricate, sophisticated conversation about his future. It wasn’t at all intentional: All I asked the little guy was, “Do you like being the pitcher?” I was referring to his little league team, where they rotated through all positions. Yes, he told me, he liked pitching, but he knew he needed to build other skills, because pitchers’ shoulders and arms don’t last long, and he has a better shot of making it in as a first baseman. He named names, stats, and muscle groups to back up this theory. Right then and there I should’ve started talking to him about physiology, physics – any area of science, really. He obviously already had the brainpower and passion to learn. But I was taken aback and he wanted to work on hitting, so I just slow-pitched him another Wiffle ball.

Kamen (Segway inventor and FIRST founder) says we need a new cultural obsession with passion – and we need to infuse kids with it. He’s right. We’ve got a national dialogue about testing, teacher quality, and whether schools are meeting kids’ needs. But I’d like to add a national dialogue about our cultural issues, too. I don’t mean race or ethnicity, I mean good ol’ “American” obsessions like baseball (talk about a career path not open to many – especially women), apple pie (as a nation, we could do with a LOT less pie), and making it, Hollywood-style, in any way possible (and maybe we could finally bid adieu to reality stars).  

By focusing on certain lighthearted things, we’re shying away from passion for excellence in other areas. Why, for instance, is it “cool” for the Williams sisters to spend hours on the public tennis courts honing their skills, but “lame” for other kids to spend hours working out equations? If you think about it, kids don’t really know one from the other in terms of status – until we collectively teach them. How did we learn it ourselves? I’m not sure, since my grandfather was a physicist and my dad a self-professed “math lover” – and yet as a kid I thought both were oh-so-lame. Why?

Through events like FIRST’s robotics competitions for kids, Kamen’s attempting to ignite this passion for kids. “We need the next generation of kids in this country to be passionate about solving problems, being innovative, creating new companies, creating new industries. It isn’t about jobs, it’s about careers,” he says. “[Through our programs] we’re convincing [kids] that there’s way more jobs, way more exciting careers out there for people who learn how to think and solve problems and do science and technology.”

Here’s a radical solution: Let’s step away from fame and money and associate excellence with productivity, achievement, and happiness. If your kid already wants to be the next Steve Jobs, that’s great; but for those of us who know regular kids, it’s up to us to remind them that it’s equally fabulous if they want to be astronauts, fire fighters, pilots, physics teachers, veterinarians, the list goes on and on if we encourage it. Let's make these professionals the next generation's all-American cultural heroes. We can if we try: It's up to us.

 

November 16, 2011

Grades for sale?

By Jessica Kelmon, Associate Editor        

Cutbacks and shortfalls and downsizing, oh my! That public schools are hurting isn’t news. But that they’re trying their hand at ad sales? Well, that is headline-making.

Forget bake sales (too fattening) and read-a-thons (we can’t afford to keep kids at reading level, anyway, right?) – Jefferson County Public Schools in Colorado has started selling ad space on report cards! So when the little Janies and Johnnies in the district’s 91 elementary schools bring home their progress reports, their parents won’t just see their grades: They’ll also get a message from Collegeinvest – a state agency that pushes college savings programs.

Nobody can blame the school board for being open to new options – they’re facing cuts of about $70M over the next two years. But it’s hardly a solution to this dire financial need. Thanks to this bit of capitalism, the district is earning back $90K over the next three years.

At this point, the district’s just dipping its toe in the entrepreneurial pool. But think of the possibilities: You could target and segment this captive audience further, with college savings ads for the A-students, tutoring ads for the C-students, and maybe even reform school ads for the kids with bad citizenship grades. (I’m only kidding – sort of.)

The thing is, back in ’08 another enterprising school district in Florida struck a similar deal with McDonald’s. In that case, grades went home in branded envelopes and promised – what else? – free Happy Meals for kids with good grades, behavior, or attendance. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood helped take down that shameless grade-for-grub trade. But that was McDonald’s, and this (arguably), reminds parents of something they ought to do.

Still… Ads? On report cards? It feels a little dirty to me. 

November 10, 2011

Should schools tackle childhood obesity? Maybe not. At least, not this way.

By Jessica Kelmon, Associate Editor

Recess is cut, or taken away as punishment, or stymied by dilapidated play structures. PE loses funding, is shockingly sedentary, or only happens once a week. School meals are sub-prison fare, or overpriced, or nutritionally void (or all three).  Meanwhile, in my Gen-X lifetime, childhood obesity has tripled. So I see why we’ve looked to schools – the common denominator for all American children – as a source of relief for this health crisis.

But a few studies are showing that some of the expensive, hard-fought “magic bullets” that we’ve championed to fight childhood obesity in our schools… well, they aren’t working.

First, there’s the sad, sad news that soda bans in schools aren’t having the desired effect. Lowlights from a great article on this failure include:

  •  “Studies have shown that about 13 percent of the average teenagers’ total daily calories come from sugary drinks…”
  • “At the start of the 2009-2010 school year, 14 U.S. states banned soda in school vending machines and 19 banned it from lunch lines in school cafeterias…”
  • “In U.S. states that banned only soda, about 30 percent of middle-school students still purchased sugary drinks like sports and fruit beverages at school, similar to states that had no policy…”

So we take sodas out of schools (what was soda doing in school anyway?), and kids still drink just as many sugary drinks – and some of those kids no doubt falsely believe they’re making healthier choices now that soda’s been removed.  Whether kids are drinking “juice,” “sports” drinks, or sugar water, we’re all complicit in a nationwide sugar addiction that’s not going anywhere without widespread education and behavior modification. This quick-and-dirty solution, I think, was set up to fail.

The failed social engineering around obesity isn’t limited to tinkering with beverages choice on school campuses. The pediatrics department at UCSF recently did a study on children’s BMI (body mass index). For this study, schools measured almost 7 million California fifth, seventh, and ninth graders’ BMIs. Some parents were notified of their child’s BMI, some weren’t. Results were calculated two years later – when the same children’s BMIs were checked again. Basically, informing parents of their child’s BMI had no effect on the child’s BMI at next measuring – two years later!

The study’s conclusion? “These findings suggest that while BMI screening itself could have benefits, parental notification in its current form may not reduce pediatric obesity. Until effective methods of notification are identified, schools should consider directing resources to policies and programs proven to improve student health,” the conclusion states. Another quick fix, another fail. 

At least reforming school lunch is more of a long-term solution. But while this initiative is more comprehensive, has better reach, and aims to change immediate behavior, it still may not do all the heavy lifting for us. As Jane Black noted over at Slate:

”The National School Lunch Program is the country's second largest program for feeding hungry citizens, spending $8 billion annually on meats, grains, and produce. And the USDA estimates that many school children get as much as 50 percent of their calories at school. Surely we can do better than breakfast tacos and [flavored] milk packed with as much sugar per serving as Coca-Cola. But amid all the media attention to school-based obesity-prevention efforts, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that improved school nutrition alone is not nearly enough to reverse the appalling rates of childhood obesity in America, where one in three children is overweight or obese. That other 50 percent of kids' caloric intake still needs to be addressed. The reasons school-food reform became a rallying point have more to do with political strategy than with the likelihood that school meals will fundamentally change children's eating habits or help them lose weight. Simply put, it's just easier to attack the way the government feeds kids than the way their parents do.”

Should we – gasp! – put the onus squarely on parents? Of course, but on a national level, schools remain the most logical place to address this crisis. Here’s my not-so-radical idea: Let’s harness the power of what schools do best: Teaching! Health and fitness should be taught in schools – as part of both science and PE. In fact, all the money put toward campaigning, marketing, and passing the soda legislation (and at least some of the funds put toward the political machine for school lunch reform) might have paid for both the curriculum development and the teachers to make the school approach both more effective – and better aligned with what schools are designed to do.

But amidst education cutbacks, how can we expect schools to teach kids about health? Maybe schools should adopt the genius (free! Magic bullet!) training tool of soccer coaches everywhere – and send kids out to run laps between classes. That might work… 

October 06, 2011

Transforming teens into bankers

By Jessica Kelmon, Associate Editor

Like most of my generation, I learned a hard financial lesson courtesy of my first credit card. I was a junior in college strolling down Bruin walk, when a friendly on-campus marketer hailed me over. He gave me a ridiculously high-interest-rate card and a t-shirt. It was so quick, I still made it to class on time. Despite the lessons about saving and making smart choices that I learned at home, I wasn’t really prepared for that first credit card. Many students aren’t.

But in one state, that stops now. Virginia’s General Assembly has now said, enough! – and is mandating that teens pass economics and personal finance to graduate. I applaud the measure, and despite the education cutbacks everywhere, I think all states should follow suit. This is a form of real-life education that every person needs to exist in our incredibly indebted capitalist society. Need stats to back that up? According to creditcards.com, 50.2 million households carry credit card debt, and the average credit card debt per household with at least one credit card is $15,799. Scary.

One high school in Richmond, VA is taking the money-management education even further. John Marshall High School has partnered with a credit union. The branch is located on campus – and students are the tellers. The head teller? A junior who says his plan is to open his own business! By working in a branch, the hope is that all of these kids will learn about money, credit, and financing to better manage their own finances as adults. Let’s hope it works!

September 29, 2011

Cheaters never prosper. At least, that’s the way it used to be.

By Jessica Kelmon, Associate Editor

Do you think there’s a difference between cheating and serious cheating?

According to a recent study, 71 percent of students don’t think copying from a website is “serious cheating.” This discouraging news comes courtesy of extensive reporting by Amy Novotney in an article called “Beat the cheat,” which was turned into an eye-popping infographic by Schools.com (republished below). Among other findings, the flow chart highlights these cheating-related facts:

  • More than half don’t think cheating is a big deal
  • Almost all have let someone else copy their work

Lucky for us, this moral lacking does not fade in adulthood: “Kids who cheat become adults who cheat.” In adulthood, childhood school-cheaters are three times more likely to lie to a customer, twice as likely to lie to their boss, and 1.5 times more likely to cheat on a spouse. Great.

Seriously, though, there’s such a thing as not “seriously” cheating in the academic arena? Since when, exactly? Sure, copy and paste are easy and useful, but this is scary: Kids seriously don’t understand plagiarism. How could that be?

But it got me thinking about the performance-driven culture that we live in. Tests are the key to success – if you do well on them, that is. Good SATs get kids into elite colleges. But it’s more than that. Ever since NCLB, we’ve been so obsessed with high marks that no matter what your political views, the cold hard fact is that the pursuit of better scores has resulted in teachers who cheat. (The massive, orchestrated events in Atlanta and DC, for example, where administrators and teachers conspired to achieve higher test scores by ‘fixing’ [read: erasing] incorrect answers.)

So we’ve got kids who cheat and don’t even know it. And we’ve got teachers cheating to boost test scores.

With that backdrop, enter New York Times Magazine’s stunning, must-read, cover story two weeks ago about two schools – an elite, private institution and a go-go-go KIPP charter – which are trying to make character education an integral part of their curriculum following research which suggests certain character traits are key to kids’ academic success. According to the article, a new(ish) 800-page book by psychology professors Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson called Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification, which attempts to describe the “science of good character,” has played a major role in which character traits these schools have decided to support.

Total transparency: I’m pro character education all the way. But as I read the Times’ article discussion, I started to worry that some key character traits – ones that I took for granted would be included – hadn’t made the cut. From Wikipedia, here’s the list of “virtues and strengths” advocated in this influential book:

  • Wisdom and Knowledge: creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective and wisdom.
  • Courage: bravery, persistence, integrity, vitality
  • Humanity: love, kindness, social intelligence
  • Justice: active citizenship, social responsibility, loyalty, teamwork, fairness, leadership
  • Temperance: forgiveness and mercy, humility and modesty, prudence, self-regulation and self-control
  • Transcendence: appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, humor and playfulness, spirituality

Here’s what’s missing: HONESTY. I realize it’s part and parcel to integrity, fairness, and wisdom – but I’m afraid cheaters (a growing segment of the population per infographic below) might not share that same understanding. I think it needs to be spelled out, highlighted, and glorified for all to see.

No doubt Martin Seligman – the founder of Positive Psychology, a movement to get psychologists to move beyond the medical model and study positive and healthy aspects of human behavior, has no intention of give short shrift to honesty. 

But it worries me that we are prioritizing go-getter characteristics (like vitality and leadership) to the point of sacrificing others.  Has honesty become road kill on the path to academic and lifelong success?

Cheating in the digital age
Courtesy of: Schools.com

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