Why Character Education?
As Dr. Thomas Lickona, author of Educating for Character, stated, “Moral education is not a new idea. It is, in fact, as old as education itself. Down through history, in countries all over the world, education has had two great goals: to help young people become smart and to help them become good.” Good character is not formed automatically; it is developed over time through a sustained process of teaching, example, learning and practice. It is developed through character education. The intentional teaching of good character is particularly important in today’s society since our youth face many opportunities and dangers unknown to earlier generations. They are bombarded with many more negative influences through the media and other external sources prevalent in today’s culture. At the same time, there are many more day-to-day pressures impinging on the time that parents and children have together. Studies show that children spend only 38.5 minutes a week (33.4 hours a year) in meaningful conversation with their parents, while they spend 1,500 hours watching television. (American Family Research Council, 1990 and Harper’s, November 1999.) Since children spend about 900 hours a year in school, it is essential that schools resume a proactive role in assisting families and communities by developing caring, respectful environments where students learn core, ethical values. In order to create our schools as the caring and respectful communities we know they can be, we must look deeper. We must be intentional, proactive and comprehensive in our work to encourage the development of good character in young people.
What is Character Education at Northmount?
Many schools overemphasize academic competence in an effort to secure a successful career in adult life. At Northmount, we work with parents in a shared mission: to assist their sons in the accomplishment of academic excellence that is rooted in strength of character, guided by a commitment to unchanging truths and accompanied by a generous spirit of service.
“SHARED MISSION”: PARENTS AS THE FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT EDUCATORS OF THEIR CHILDREN
Northmount School was founded by parents who wanted their sons to achieve academic excellence through the development of the whole human person. They realized that in order to attain this goal, the school must harness forces that extend beyond its curriculum proper and beyond the classroom itself. They wanted a school that would assist them in the vital task of raising their children. Accordingly, a fundamental principle of Northmount’s philosophy is that the education of children is primarily the responsibility of parents. We educate our students not only as students, but also as sons, brothers and neighbours. We form a partnership with parents because we know that the education we provide will be most fruitful when it is in harmony with the personal and social education their children are receiving within the family.
“ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT THAT IS… ROOTED IN STRENGTH OF CHARACTER”
Character development is only possible within a school that fosters willingness on the part of students to appropriate and emulate the truths they learn from and witness in its teachers. Northmount devotes considerable time and resources to the building of the inner-directed and habitual strengths of mind and will that comprise true character.
Because of our emphasis on unity with our parents in the fostering of their sons’ high academic achievement and solid character, it is inevitable that many parents who are not Catholic or Christian will be interested in Northmount. From its beginning, Northmount has welcomed any qualified student and has benefited from students of all ethnic and religious backgrounds.
“ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT THAT IS… GUIDED BY A COMMITMENT TO UNCHANGING TRUTHS”
In order to meet the needs of the whole child, education must have a solid foundation in unchanging truths: principles that apply to the lives of individuals, families, organizations and civilizations. Everything that is done at Northmount is grounded in these truths because it is in harmony with and anchored in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
“ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT THAT IS… ACCOMPANIED BY A GENEROUS SPIRIT OF SERVICE”
“True education is directed to the formation of the human person in view of his final end and the good of society to which he belongs, and in the duties of which as an adult he will have a share”. (Vatican II)
The goal of a Northmount education is a young man who uses common sense to achieve uncommon character. He is a competent, responsible, considerate and generous young man who strives to live according to a well-formed conscience. Only such a person can truly be free: free to choose what is good and true. This is the meaning behind the school motto, Libertas in Veritate (Freedom for the Truth). With your help, he will know himself, acknowledging his weaknesses so as not to be dominated by them and building on his strengths and gifts. He will also possess self-discipline so that his heart is not tied to inferior goods, but only those of love of God and neighbour. This is true freedom: a freedom for the truth, rather than freedom from obligation and responsibility that is deceptively dangled before today’s youth.
How do we implement Character Education at Northmount?
EDUCATION IN VIRTUE
Virtue is a habit and disposition of the heart formed by the repetition of good actions that build the moral character. Virtue pertains to morality which is the objective measure of goodness, while value ultimately pertains to personal preference or group consensus, which may or may not be moral. Founded on Judeo-Christian principles and traditions, Northmount looks to those principles and traditions, and to the writings of some of the great classical philosophers for its orientation on morality and virtues.
The following are examples of human virtues: fortitude, justice, prudence, temperance, understanding, friendship, generosity, humility, loyalty, honesty, industriousness, modesty, obedience, orderliness, optimism, patience, perseverance, responsibility, respect, sincerity.
At Northmount, we strive to help our students learn and live all the virtues. We look to the person of Jesus Christ as the principal teacher and exemplar of all virtues. We believe that it is not a matter of emphasizing this or that good habit, but rather we ultimately want our students to imitate in their lives the live of Jesus Christ.
A Northmount student grows in character through what he is taught, what he sees his teachers do and through what his teachers and advisor guide him to practise. Each month, the school as a whole, as well as each class, studies a particular good habit or virtue, in order to set goals for its practice. Teachers also study how they can be a fitting model for how this virtue is practiced. Finally, teachers and advisors help students set small and attainable goals, in their friendships and at home.
Spiritual development is an important element of character development since it fosters the harmonious blossoming of the spiritual dimensions of the person. Students are helped to discover and respond to the highest calling of all men and women, love for their creator. Northmount faculty and staff exercise great respect for the freedom of each person when it comes to helping them know and draw closer to God.
Through the religion classes, students learn what God has revealed of Himself. They are taught to discern this revelation both through use of their natural reason and through faith. In this way, they are help to understand that faith and reason complement rather than contradict each other. For students of other faith, the academic presentation of these truths are valuable occasions to become familiar with the teachings of the Catholic Church and to better understand the moral and spiritual foundations of classical western civilization.
Holy Mass are celebrated twice a week by Archdiocesean priests and students also have the opportunities to receive Sacraments when the priest is in school. Through all these, students obtain a deeper perspective of their lives and a sense of meaning and purpose.
A chief advantage of a small school is the ability to get to know our students well and to see their personalities develop over time. One of the means we use to get to know our students is the Advisory program. Each student has a personal advisor with whom he meets with. Through the personal attention, friendship and counsel that the advisor provides, the student gains insight into his own character. The advisor can tell the student what strengths, talents and possibilities lie within him. Young people are often the last to recognize their gifts and such recognition on the part of a respected adult can be valuable, especially during the uncertainties of adolescence.
By meeting regularly with the student’s parents and teachers, the advisor is in a privileged position to help the student pursue – in a friendly, supportive manner – goals in his academic, social, personal and spiritual development. The advisory is a powerful means of transmitting the ideals that form the basis for everything that is done in the school.
Parents also meet with their son’s advisor in order to ensure that the school’s academic, social and spiritual activities are tailored to his needs. For the parents, the advisor is the principal means by which they can know that the personalized attention that their son receives in the school reflects their own beliefs and values. Parents meet with the advisor to discuss the areas of improvement in his personal, social and spiritual development. For the parents, the advisor can also be a resource for books and other materials on childhood/adolescent development and on effective parenting.
Each Northmount advisor has received the requisite personal and professional formation needed for the individual care of our students in the Northmount tradition. Most advisors are teachers at the school, but some are friends of the school who share our vision and devote some of their professional time to our students.
What makes the Northmount Character Education unique?
Many schools speak about character development, but few speak about the development of human virtues in the individual. We believe that education in character requires each virtue to be lived in the daily life of the school. Through their words, actions and examples and the delivery of the daily lessons, the Northmount faculty reinforce the virtues we want to teach in our students. For this reason, we are genuine partners with parents in helping their sons to know the good, to love the good, and to do the good.