Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cowboy Ethics and Character Education

Character education occasionally pops up as a buzzword in the move for school reform. The basic idea is society wondering what the heck is going on with these kids - especially when it's clear that not much parenting is going on in many families. Some teachers, however, are accomplishing incredible things with kids in terms of character and identity - especially with the kids that society is either ignoring ... or has simply given up on.

A couple years ago, a teacher at my high school developed a unit based on the book Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West by James Owen. The unit had two goals: one was developing the literacy of kids who had struggled in that area, and two was developing the self-esteem and identity of those same kids.

The unit was a fabulous success - and it received some nice press about its impact. Currently, I am working as a mentor in my school, and we are integrating the concept of "cowboy ethics" into the classroom. For many kids, having a code to live by is the last thing on their minds ... and that might be part of the problem. Cowboy ethics is based on the following principles:

Live each day with courage
Take pride in your work
Always finish what you start
Do what has to be done
Be tough, but fair
When you make a promise, keep it
Ride the brand
Talk less, say more
Remember that some things aren't for sale
Know where to draw the line.

These ideas are simple and honest - and quite effective as a code not only for cowboys or Wall Street bankers but also a group of teenagers struggling for identity ... and really for all of us. The book is fabulous and worth checking out especially these days. And the idea of using it in schools is absolutely something special. Check out the following video about a group of students and their journey back to the old West on a journey of self discovery.

Schools and kids need more of this.

1 comment:

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