The Other Side of the Report Card
By Ed DeRoche
The school year consists partly of “school chiefs” and others pushing national and state standards, applying pressure to increase students’ test scores, and promoting “laserlike, focused efforts” on the teaching of math, science, and reading. Few school leaders talk about the “citizenship side” of the report card. Yet, it is this side of the report card that tells the real story about student achievement and behavior because it assesses social and emotional skills, and character traits. The “citizenship” side of the report card should not take second place in the “race to the top.” Why?
Michelle Borba, the author of the book, Building Moral Intelligence, writes: “Today’s kids are being raised in a much more morally toxic atmosphere than previous generations for two reasons. First, a number of critical social factors that nurture moral character are slowly disintegrating: adult supervision, models of moral behavior, spiritual or religious training, meaningful adult relationships, personalized schools, clear national values, community support, stability, and adequate parents. Second, our kids are being steadily bombarded with outside messages that go against the values we are trying to instill. Both factors make it much harder for parents to raise moral kids.”
There is concern enough for Newsweek (September 2004) to run a theme issue titled, “How to Say NO to Your Kids: Setting Limits in the Age of Excess.” The Josephsen’s Institute’s annual poll of teens reveals a rather high percentage of teens who cheat, steal, lie, and exhibit a “propensity toward violence” including bullying. Teacher polls show that teachers find students to be less respectful, more aggressive, more impulsive and impatient, and display more inappropriate language. One observer of the youth culture noted that the mantra of the “ME” generations appears to be: “I Know My Rights – I Want It Now – Someone Else Is To Blame – I’m A Victim.”
The other side of the report card also underscores the importance of social and emotional skills in the workplace. For example, the top five traits/qualities that Fortune 500 companies seek in employees are: teamwork, problem solving, interpersonal skills, communicating skills, and the ability to listen. Thomas Stanley, in his book, The Millionaire Mind, reports that a polling of 5,000 millionaires reveal that crucial to their success was integrity (being honest), discipline (self-control), social skills (getting along) and hard work (perseverance).
As we think about these observations and the citizenship side of our children’s report cards it might be wise to ask three questions:
- Do we really believe that children are born “morally literate?”
- Do we believe that they need to be taught to be moral (knowing the difference between right and wrong) and ethical (doing what is right) at home, in school, and in the community?
- If we want our children to be good, caring, empathetic human beings, do we let this happen by chance or do we help them develop positive social and emotional skills?
We require, push, demand, cajole our children to learn the basic skills of reading, writing, and computing. But what is more basic than nurturing them to be caring, civil, responsible, respectful human beings who know and practice the “Golden Rule”? Daniel Goleman in his book, Emotional Intelligence, notes that IQ accounts for about 20% of success in life while the remaining 80% is attributed to factors related to emotional intelligence, such as self–awareness, managing emotions, empathy, social consciousness, self-restraint, and nurturing positive relationships.
As this school year continues, let all of us join the many schools and communities in this county who are attending to the “citizenship” side of the report card by implementing programs designed to teach students democratic values, prosocial skills, emotional control and anger management, critical thinking, ethical decision-making, and what it means to be a good citizen.