Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Character Series: Responsibility

"If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders." - Abigail Van Buren
How do we develop a sense of responsibility in our children?

Responsibility Resources

1 comment:

Ed Latham said...

Young people today are growing more and more into the belief that life is a passive experience. If things do not turn out right it is because some one out there dropped the ball and the student's rights have been violated somehow. Interviewing elementary students, especially when they are upset about something, yields tons of data to help illustrate just how passively youth view the world.

Television started the trend of sitting back and letting your mind shift into neutral and just enjoy an experience. That experience expanded from 1 to 2 shows on the only television station that was running that week to 24/7, 3billion channels of content to be entertained with. One would argue that video games picked up the slack when populations started feeling like they had "seen it all on t.v." already. Video games at least have some interactivity and some decision making, but the actual entertainment value is programed into the actions rather than receiving actual physical evidence that the student's choices made a difference. It is safe to say that entertainment has become a completely passive experience. At least here in my community, you rarely see any pick up baseball games (those are all scheduled by adults now), the tennis courts never have anyone under the age of 20 on them, the few basketball courts are empty, and out in the woods the only children you will find are riding ATVs at speeds that would make our grandmothers die instantly from heart failure.

How active is school? Dr. Harry Wong points out in his, The First Day Of School, that learning happens by those that are doing. Teachers spend their entire day doing while students spend most of their day siting and listening or watching. It should be no surprise then that teachers go home exhausted and students go home with tons of energy. In most classrooms, students have few choices and those choices that do exist are not significant real life choices. Although some educators may get upset with this statement, education (as it exists in most places) is passive and non engaging for students.

So our entertainment is passive and our education is passive. The family units have been in decline for some time and since there are so many situations that are out there with families, I don't really want to go into the issues in the home. Suffice to say that students do not feel they are in charge of any relevant choices at home.

Where in their lives are students actively making significant choices in their lives that have direct physical feedback? Lacking experiences that directly teach children the effects of their choices limits the child's development of responsibility. One could argue that getting the child a pet is a great activity in teaching responisbility as the animal can directly offer feedback to the positive and negative decisions the child makes. More often than not, the parent starts stepping in to "help" take care of the animal when the child starts to neglect it after the thrill is gone. Worse the parent may even have to attempt some rescue missions when the child had some "neat ideas to try with fluffy". Still the parent assumes the responsibility.
In order to promote responsibility in children, we need to offer something for the children to be responsible for. I am anxious to here from others as to what thoughts people have about how we as parents and teachers can offer authentic activities the kids are responsible for.