We believe that school is a place to learn about being a good student. We also believe that school is a place to learn about being a good person. These are our two great goals for our students.
Chapin School has committed itself to enhancing the moral life of its students. Based on the premise that parents are their children’s first and most enduring moral teachers, Chapin’s Character Development Program seeks to work closely with parents to instill in students the virtues of:
Respect | Responsibility | Honesty | Kindness | Perseverance
Chapin’s Character Development Program was introduced during the 2001-2002 school year after several years of research, studies and meetings with faculty, students, parents and trustees.
Chapin’s Character Development Program is grounded on the belief that to have a good life, one must lead a good life. To lead a good life, one must know the good, love the good and do the good. One must develop the habits of the mind, of the heart and of actions in order to behave in morally good ways.
Central elements of our program include:
- common language to discuss our virtues
- monthly assemblies highlighting our five virtues
- an Honor Code in the Upper School
- recognition at our weekly division meetings of students whose actions exemplify our virtues
- a required 8th grade trimester course on community service
- a required 7th grade trimester course on leadership
- regular discussions about the virtues of good character in Upper School Advisory groups
- periodic activities in the Lower School focusing on targeted virtues
To understand the philosophical underpinnings of Chapin’s Character Development Program, a more detailed description follows.
What is Character Development?
Character Development is the deliberate effort to develop good character based on core virtues. Good character consists of knowing the good, loving the good and doing the good – habits of the mind, habits of the heart and habits of action.
The Case for Character Development
There are numerous, compelling justifications for Character Development. The primary one is the clear and urgent need. The long and disturbing litany of trends such as increased youth violence, bullying, vandalism, plagiarism, cheating and disrespect for authority point to the need for renewed efforts to focus on developing character. Character Development is one way to combat this growing “ethical illiteracy.”
Second, the transmission of values has always been the work of civilization. The world’s great intellectual authorities, such as Plato, Aristotle, Confucius and our nation’s founders, all emphasized the importance of the development of character. Socrates, for example, suggested that the mission of education is to make people become both smart and good. Our nation’s founders clearly recognized that in a democracy there is a special need to develop responsible, moral adults.
Third, there is no such thing as virtue-free education. The question is, "Which virtues will schools teach?" Although parents will forever remain their children’s first and most enduring moral teachers, parents and the school together can even more effectively further the instillation of essential human virtues.
Fourth, even with the immense diversity of our country and intense differences over certain moral issues, there is a consensus of shared virtues and ethical common ground that defines our humanity.
A successful Character Development Program in which parents and the school come together with a common purpose can be a powerful antidote to the haphazard transmission of virtues by our culture.
What is a Virtue?
Virtues are objectively good human qualities. They are affirmed by cultures around the world and transcend religious and cultural differences. Virtue is the disposition to think, feel and act in morally excellent ways coupled with the exercise of this disposition. Virtues are cultivated from within an individual.
Values, often confused with virtues, are what we desire, what we want and ideas to which we subscribe. Values tend to be idiosyncratic and can be reduced to a matter of taste or feeling rather than representing the product of thought and deliberate choice. Values are perceived as relative and can change. This is why Chapin’s Character Development Program focuses primarily on virtues.
What is the role of parents in Character Development?
The family is a child’s primary moral educator. Parents are their children’s first and most important moral teachers. They are also the most enduring influence.
The school and parents must work closely together to reinforce those virtues considered most important. A good Character Development Program should provide parents with practical suggestions about how to emphasize key virtues at home.
If the school’s targeted virtues are not supported at home, the likelihood of success for Character Development will be diminished. The school and its families must therefore come together in a common cause.