Building a Culture of Character

Bob's Head ShotSubmitted by
Bob Broudo
Headmaster, Landmark School

Being “peaceful,” or at least making the effort to become peaceful, is often associated with the holidays. However, the arrival of the holidays this year (2012) was accompanied by horrific visions of school violence that conjured up other visions of violence in movie theaters, malls, and on our streets. For so many people, including me, these visions were not conducive to peaceful feelings. Rather, they created difficult questions and a sense of anxiety.

Such social violence, portrayed almost daily in the news, is painful and impossible to understand. This violence is by no means specific to schools, yet health and safety concerns at our schools are increasingly on all of our minds. One of the swirling questions for me during our holiday break was how do we learn to balance what we so often hear, see, feel, and fear with who we are, what we do to maintain safety and help create change, and how we communicate with each other as adults and with our students. How do we stay balanced as we move forward in a healthy way while still carrying the emotions of such terrible events?

Often, when there is too much chatter in my brain, I retreat to a good book, and, at this time, I found the title of Susan Cain’s book, Quiet to be promising. Writing about introverts and our society’s evolution toward the “Extrovert Ideal,” the author makes the following statement on page 21: “America had shifted from what influential cultural historian Warren Susman called a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality – and opened up a Pandora’s Box of personal anxieties from which we would never quite recover.” This is a bold and sweeping statement, yet it resonated with me.

The phrase Culture of Character describes that which we work endlessly to achieve in our schools, often against other powerful cultural influences. School cultures strive to build and reinforce character in the community as a whole, and within each student and adult within the community. In this context, who we are, how we respond, what we learn, what actions we take when confronted with overwhelmingly bad news depends on our character and almost forces us to strengthen our culture.

From this perspective, I felt more balanced knowing that our work is really about continuing to build a Culture of Character within our schools and communities wherein how we behave makes all the difference. While we cannot control external events, we can control how we respond to them, and we can seize every opportunity within our community to teach, grow, refine, and communicate. Focusing on the dignity of each person, acting with respect, and honoring our emotions and responsibilities in difficult times, do not answer all of the questions, but they are the hopeful foundation for a more peaceful existence.

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  • What ever else life is about, it is always completely about character. We, as parents, fight the onslaught daily of a society often out of control, and seemly shallow. I count all of you at the school as my allies in the endeavor to raise a moral, productive, and responsible child.

  • This is lovely. thanks for the reminder that external forces do have an effect on us, but we strive to build internal forces for balance and perspective.

  • I am heartened to read your post and cannot agree more emphatically with your statement: “While we cannot control external events, we can control how we respond to them. . .” It is this principle of thought, in my opinion, that is the foundation of not only the development of character but also the root of self-awareness and maturity. I am so grateful our daughter is a part of the Landmark community where a Culture of Character is emphasized and exemplified.

  • Great points made and well said – will look forward to more blogs of wisdom throughout the year! Bob, with your experience and many years of digesting school culture, your observations are valuable – thanks for sharing your insight.

  • The problem with the news is that they rely on viewers to consume their version of it regularly in order to keep their business or cause alive. It’s not exactly providing for high quality, well balanced positive and negative stories. News is “news” not a steam of negativity that the networks strike us with. Rather they are tapping into our un-evolved minds by invoking fear with nothing but bad news. The result is that we pay attention to this news, or another way to label it is as a fear inducing feed. We pay attention to it because we are wired to; I like to say that the meaning of life is to stay alive. Think about what headline gets your adrenalin pumping faster. The news that the building you’re in is on Fire, or the building you’re in is being remolded?

    Now the fact that tragic things happen in this world will not change. I’m not a cold person and I feel deeply for the people who these horrific things happen to and wish I could stop them from happening. The best I can do is effect the people within my reach, you. The world is chaotic and we try our best to make sense of it all because we are human. That’s what we do. We try to understand and organize everything but we will never understand everything exactly. We will never harness the universe and make it less chaotic. In my option, I think we simply need to manage how we get our news and remain investigative of the source. Ask questions and ask a lot of them. Do not take it passively. What is the news source’s purpose for putting together this news for me? Where do they generate money from? What political influence do they slant to or goals do they have (examples, more eyes watching so to sell more marketing slots at higher prices, followers to their cause, Calls to action)?

    Enlightenment could be a first step in the direction of understanding all the bad stuff happening on the news. Talking about where to find the highest quality news that provides both the positive and the negative news. I mean if all you hear is bad things you, that’s all that will be swirling around in your head, and you will feel it. Balance is key. It’s really productive for me at least, to consume as much good news as I do bad. It kind of give me hope and at the same time takes the edge off of the pain in the bad. Ideally the sources will interject some possible solutions to problems and would lend their selves to a bi-directional conversation. This creates community and allows everyone to be a part of it. It will also keep everyone aware of their surroundings.

    This blog is a great place to start, but you have to make the second action by replying to the posts that are going up. At least bring the content up in conversation with your class mates so that the people who don’t read this blog begin to pay it some mind. There is nothing wrong with stating your option and if people don’t agree with your point of view that don’t mean that they don’t like you personally, it just mean that what you have said doesn’t resonate with them..

    I don’t know that’s the two cents coming from an introverted Land Mark graduate of 1991.


    Oh! One more thing don’t worry about your spelling or grammar just focus on getting your message across. It’s nothing to be ashamed if you are, it’s not a secrect why your going to Landmark.

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