( History and character education inspiration )

Often, we refer to well-known people from down the ages as historical characters or characters from history.

Very often, we realize that these people had little character. But history records them as immortal anyway. Not necessarily because of their strengths and skills, but because they happened to be in positions of power or were instrumental in bringing about events of historical significance.

However, reading history is bound to give us insights into characters, whether negative or positive, and that can be instrumental in helping us understand the importance of a strong, unflinching character.

We read of boy kings who built kingdoms with little except good advice and a small group of brave loyalists. We also read of brothers murdering each other to gain a throne. We hear of great famines while the governments fail to take note of the peoples’ hardships. We hear of culture and prosperity under the strong arm of a tolerant ruler. We hear of great wars fought for several years, even hundreds of years, on the strength of a belief. Also of ordinary people who gave up their lives willingly and became martyrs.

All of us read about and look upto people like Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Sarojini Naidu and other freedom fighters. We do not know them personally and we do not even have any character certificates issued in their name by our neighbours. In fact, we know that their personal lives may have been far from perfect. But we continue to look upto them because they displayed strength of character for, at least, one cause that they held above personal aspirations.

Similarly, characters like Ashoka or Akbar, or Shah Jehan or Rana Pratap are not known for being good necessarily. But they did deeds, which led to the creation of something great and beautiful. For that, they have their own place in history.

There are many lessons to learn from history and the characters of those who have been in power. We learn that greatness of character comes not only from power, but also tolerance and intelligence and culture. We see that the strongest are those who are the best loved. And we also learn that even the most hated characters will have some redeeming virtues, which helped them rise to the levels they did.

Author Annie Zaidi. Copyright 2004. indianchild.com

Main page Character education for Kids

Teen peer pressure, what is peer pressure, Battling peer pressure

Peer pressure is all about being forced into a certain way of living, dressing, talking, socializing and even thinking – simply because that is how everyone else you know behaves, dresses, talks, socializes and thinks.

This is common amongst people who generally mix with people their own age. And mind you, this is definitely not restricted to youngsters. People across all age groups are subject to peer pressure. An office-worker is subject to as much pressure from his or her peers as a young college student.

All of us wish to gain and retain the respect and admiration of our peers. After all, we have to believe that others are our equals before we want to impress them. And if we cannot win their approval, we struggle to ensure that we dont face their disapproval or ridicule either. It can be terribly painful to watch a peer humiliating us or even speaking negatively about us.

The matter of peer pressure becomes particularly difficult for youngsters because, thanks to the demands of education, they spend almost ninety percent of their waking hours with their peers. And they rarely have the choice of not mixing with those particular peers.

Young people can be often blunt and insensitive in their dealings with each other. And they are very quick to notice differences of habit, dress and social behavior. As a result, you might compelled to buy the latest fashions in clothes and accessories. Because everyone else does the same, regardless of cost or comfort. You might end up reading what they read, watching the same television programs and movies that others watch and using the same language that they use. Because, otherwise, you feel left out of all the conversation. You might end up staying out late at night or eating out all the time, simply because that is what the others do, regardless of whether you can afford to or not.

The best way to counter peer pressure is to select your friends very carefully. Preferably, your friends should be in a mixed group of people. That keeps everyone rooted and more tolerant of differences.

The second is to muster your courage and to tell people to mind their own business, if and when they begin to interfere with your life. Sure, a few people may be offended. But they will also learn to be less offensive themselves, in future.

And most importantly, you have to remember that you are an individual and a unique one. And your decisions to eat, drink, dress, talk, go out, read or think are your own. If others dont share these interests or habits, too bad. Let your peers and friends catch up with you. If they cant, find new friends.

Character and social norms

A good character is, to a large extent, made up of what people believe is good. Here is where social norms come into play.

Good and bad are defined by social and cultural norms and these definition change from region to region, generation to generation.

In India itself, there are many contrasting norms about what is acceptable and what is not. There are several different rules in each community and region to deal with norms of marriage, education, business dealings and so on. What one community considers a sign of strength and health, another may view as a mark of weakness and indulgence.

However, there are a few basic norms that most modern societies would agree to. For instance, all cultures agree that screaming at little children is not a good practice; in fact, it is a character flaw. It may not be against the law, but it is, nevertheless, a sign of weakness and lack of control. Similarly, not treating your parents with respect is not considered a virtue in any culture.

Also, there are some traits that would be respected as a sign of strong character across the world, irrespective of difference in norms. Standing up for the truth, for example. Fighting oppression or corruption, dealing with crises through compassion and patience, showing courage at all times, helping those who need help – these are all marks of good character.

Understanding Character

A lot of times, we hear people talk about someone as a man of character. Other times, someone might be described as an unreliable character. Sometimes, we hear them referred to as quite a character !

When people begin to talk about character, there could be a dozen different shades to their tone. They might be sounding impressed, awed, disgusted, frightened, amused, bemused or a combination of these reactions.

What exactly is character ? The dictionary would tell you that it is, basically, an attribute or a quality that defines a person. This means that you are defined by a certain set of habits, qualities or attitudes and these form the basis upon which you character is judged.

Character can have positive or negative associations. For instance, when someone is called a man of character, the unsaid adjective is a positive one. It means that he is ethically and morally upright and can be trusted.

When someone is just a character, it means that he is unique. He could be funny, awkward, interesting or ridiculous. But he has a strong distinctive personality that sets him apart from others.

Every attribute of you goes into the building of your character. If someone were to describe YOU as a character, they would take into consideration all aspects of your personality, including your physical appearance, your social habits, your psychological reactions and other people’s perception of your strengths. In fact, the last aspect – other people’s perceptions of you character – is what goes into giving you a reputation, whether positive or negative.  Author Annie Zaidi. Copyright 2004. indianchild.com

Main page Character education for Kids

Moral science is taught as a subject in most schools. Not always with a great deal of effectiveness. Perhaps, part of the problem lies in the fact that morality is not a science, strictly speaking. It is too much of a social phenomenon and there is too much of the personal and subjective mixed within, for it to be taught as a rational science.

Besides, morality itself changes down the generations and there is little point speaking of a fixed syllabus to teach from an approved book.

I remember sitting through forty minutes of moral lessons, which told stories about little children who never told lies and were rewarded for their goodness. It had little impact though. And I cannot recall even one lesson or story from those days.

Moral science (and preferably all subjects), if it has to be dealt with as a subject in schools, needs a participatory approach. When you tell a child about morals, you also have to deal with social norms and cultural differences. You have to explain that morality can be subjective, but to be able to co-exist in society, you will probably have to adhere to the currently prevailing morals.

The best way to tell a child how to live is to show him or her what is valued. If a child likes his friend, you have to make the child think why. Once the child notices and recognizes goodness in others, he or she is likely to develop it as well.

In fact, most of the morals that children learn, they learn by watching people around them. They absorb behavior patterns from teachers and older students. They watch to see what is rewarded and who is punished. They learn on the sports field and through social work. Moral science lessons should simply consist of letting them live and interact, and watch you uphold correct values and reward good behavior.

Author Annie Zaidi. Copyright 2004. indianchild.com

Main page Character education for Kids

Courage & Character education

Courage is not something that comes from flying to your heart in moments of need or in emergencies. Courage is not something that can be handed over to you through lessons either.

Courage is a way of life. It is as much a habit as anything else. Like getting up and brushing your teeth in the morning, or drinking coffee.

It’s a matter of routine more than anything else. People tend to speak of courage only in terms of deeds. For instance, they might speak of courage in the battlefield. Soldiers and policemen are supposed to show courage. Or they might refer to courage in the face of devastation. Flood-affected people or earthquake victims must show courage.

However, courage is not merely the name you can give to your putting up with a bad situation. After all, in a bad situation, there is not much one can do expect cope with whatever strength and forbearance you can muster.

But though we don’t notice it, a lot of courage is part of our routines. The man who gets into a blocked sewer shows courage. The man who tills the land, not knowing whether he will have a good monsoon shows courage. The woman who resists the temptation to lavish goodies on her children shows courage. The child who breaks a leg on the football field but goes back to the game later shows courage. The student who is bent on following his dreams shows courage.

The real test of courage is in our daily lives. Or should be.

The courage to speak the truth. All the time. Because lies are the biggest and most obvious sort of cowardice that all of us hide behind.

The courage to speak our mind and not stay silent, simply because we are afraid that other people might not agree with us. Of course, there will be conflicting views. And of course, conflict is unpleasant. But not speaking your mind can lead to much worse unpleasantness.

The courage to stand up for what we believe in. The courage to follow public rules and laws and insist that other people follow them too. The courage to resist those who take easy ways out, which only leads to more corruption and red tape in our social systems.

Mark Twain has said, Courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of it.

The sign of a courageous person, then, is someone who is feels, fear, recognizes fear and still goes on to do what he or she believes is right.

some quotes on courage

Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow.  ~Dan Rather
Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do.  There can be no courage unless you’re scared.  ~Edward Vernon Rickenbacker
A coward is a hero with a wife, kids, and a mortgage.  ~Marvin Kitman
Coward:  A man in whom the instinct of self-preservation acts normally.  ~Sultana Zoraya
Bravery is being the only one who knows you’re afraid.  ~Franklin P. Jones