One Child’s Courage

I want to share with you an amazing example of one child’s courage and character at the end of the Orange Olympics, an annual athletic event which took place at High Plains on June 12.{{more}} But, first a little background.

In education, as with many other fields, we tend to rely on catch phrases which are intended to resonate with the audience and make a complex concept more meaningful and memorable. Sometimes, however, our jargon does the opposite because the phrase is wide open to a variety of interpretations.

‘Whole child education’ is one of those terms. What does it mean? On the surface, it even seems a little silly – after all, who would teach half of a child?

Whole child education, however, refers to the idea that all children learn best when their academic, emotional, physical, and social understandings are addressed.

Yes, we write report cards and update you on the CMTs and other standardized tests as evidence of our students’ academic achievements. In fact, for a while now, it has seemed as if educational thinking, practice, and policy have been singularly focused on academic achievement. In Orange, that is not the case. We all know that to be successful participating world citizens, our students must also be healthy, confident, self-motivated, considerate, and honest. In other words, they need to be young people of character. These attributes are, of course, treasured by our families; and we realize what we do in our schools supplements these same values you are teaching at home.

But, be assured, all of our schools do focus on these qualities through programs, such as ‘Character Counts,’ through planned philanthropic activities, and by capitalizing on ‘teachable moments’ when they occur.

The Orange Olympic event illustrated the importance of ‘whole child’ character education perfectly; and hopefully, all of our students paid attention and learned something of value.

At the closing ceremonies of the Olympics, a young man was called up to the podium to receive his gold medal for winning his event. He took the stage, and in front of his peers and a crowd of parents found the courage to express, ‘I didn’t win this; it doesn’t belong to me; the person who actually won this event has the same first name as I do, but he’s the person who won.’

Imagine the nervousness he felt in front of a crowd; imagine the choices running through his head. He could accept the medal and keep it.

He could accept the medal, for now, and then after the ceremony, give it back and explain it wasn’t his. But, he took the least easy path available to him and chose ‘doing the right thing’ at the moment when doing the right thing was called for. In front of everyone, he ensured that the medal and recognition went to the person to whom it belonged.

That’s character!

Lynn McMullin is the Orange superintendent of schools.