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Review of the Character Education Curriculum
11th & 12th Grades

By Dr. Therese M. Stewart
Educational Consultant and Graduate of Columbia Teacher’s College

Discovering the Real Me: Developing Leadership Skills, the 11th in the series of character education textbooks for high school students is a valuable addition to the genre. Consistent with the three most essential goals in life as identified by the authors, leadership is viewed at the levels of family, community and nation, as well as at the individual level. In their examination of leadership at these various levels, critical philosophical as well as practical questions are addressed. The importance of good decision making is emphasized. Failures in leadership as well as models of successful leadership are identified. Going beyond the goal of developing individual virtues, the program encompasses all virtues under the rubric of its motto, “Living for the sake of others” or Altruistic Love.

Authored by a team of professionals, the book is focused, well organized and student friendly.  It shows familiarity with people and events or interests familiar to students as seen in references to the popular Harry Potter series and the character of Tevye of Fiddler on the Roof fame. Colorful anecdotes from a wide variety of sources, and personal assessments and strategic exercises invite the student to interact with the content and presumably with their peers. A glossary at the end of the book provides clear definitions of many terms encountered in the discussion, a convenience for students and a strategy for encouraging precision in communication. A teacher’s manual is available.
I enjoyed this book for its wide array of stories, and its thought-provoking questions and exercises. Whereas many character education programs deal with leadership as a single topic along with other areas such as self-esteem, relationships, conflict resolution, and parenting, the Saunders make leadership the unifying factor.

In Discovering the Real Me: Student Textbook 12 Preparing for (Adult) Life in Society the authors continue the thorough, systematic approach to character education which characterizes preceding volumes. In their own words:

Good individuals form and are formed by good families, good families make up vibrant communities, vibrant communities comprise a healthy nation, and healthy nations create peace in the world. Hence character education is more than an individual concern. It is a key to world peace.

Consistent with this comprehensive view, in the culminating book in the series, the student finds himself front and center stage as graduation nears and entry into a larger world with new responsibilities and challenges become immanent. A well-articulated introduction describes the three sections of the book. The first seven chapters lead the student to focus on issues related to the first life goal, becoming a mature and responsible individual:

  • emotions and self-understanding
  • looking at “the enemy” within—that part of ourselves that seems to be working against our better interests
  • finding meaning and purpose in their lives and the importance of choices that become their destinies

In the following six chapters they deal with the second life goal issues, issues related to building healthy relationships and a loving family:

  • friendships, love relationships, marriage and family
  • commitment and loyalty to friends, neighbors, and family members
  • functioning effectively in a group

The four final chapters address the third life goal—their personal contribution to society and issues of leadership, making a difference in one’s community, society, and world by practicing the principle of living for the sake of others. As he or she interacts with the content through reflections, exercises and responding to questions they envision their possible future.  They think through some of the scenarios they may well be faced with in later stages of life and attempt to ascertain how they would perform in real time. The course draws to a close by dealing with the most fundamental question, what is a life worth living.

  Both contemporary and historic figures are cited to make a point, e.g., Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and General McArthur. Examples of persons such as Abraham Lincoln, who developed his leadership abilities under tremendous opposition, help students realize that through service and other activities, they can make a difference in the world.  The process enhances the likelihood of their making such a commitment.  Teachers will find it a valuable resource in teaching their students.



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