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At the ReValue America lecture we hosted last weekend, one of the themes was of course, “Values”.
During the presentation, the speaker—Dr. Shanon Brooks—took a moment to ask everyone there what some “American values” were. Various words were quickly offered: Honor. Courage. Bravery. Love. Friendship. Hard work/work ethic. Faith. Charity/Generosity. Probably about 20 or 30 were mentioned within a 30 second span. It was a fairly easy exercise for the 130 or so in attendance.
After a good number had been spoken, Dr. Brooks said, “Those are all great, and I think we’re all in agreement that those are all values that we hold as Americans. But—and this never fails, anywhere I ask this—there were a few that we did not mention. Why didn’t anyone mention mathematics, or grammar, or physics, or anything like that? We focus so much of our attention in our education systems to such things, but they aren’t mentioned as our core values?”
It was a fantastic illustration (in my opinion) of our educational focus being quite askew. We have an enormous system in place to train up generations of Americans in the “fundamentals”, but we are not passing along our values. Values are, well, what we value. So according to our education system, we value skills rather than the things we say are our “values” (as above).
Don’t get me wrong… I don’t think the public education system really can pass along values very well, so I don’t think we should all of a sudden change to a more character-based education system in the government schools. It won’t work. (Simply because of the setting, the environment.) Character and values should be passed along to children by their parents. Clearly there are problems with that in our society as there are so many homes without parents in the plural … it gets very confused and confusing.
I guess that’s why Dr. Brooks feels we really need to “ReValue” America.
At the very least, we need to figure out what it means to get an education, and what sort of education we want. Do we just want to learn skills (that we don’t even consider American values) or do we want a more well-rounded, full education, including the “why” of what we learn. And what to do with what we’ve learned. Based on our values.
Which is it?
That was one of the questions/challenges presented in the ReValue America lecture … if you can get out to any of the remaining ones here in NY State this week, please do. It will be well worth your time. If not, visit their website for information on other opportunities across the US.