April 10, 2008

Teens in the Media...Again!

I was shocked when I saw the video of the Florida teen being beaten by "supposed" girlfriends on TV the other day. I couldn't believe that "friends" would lure this teen girl to their home and then beat her mercilessly and inflict such terrible harm. I know, I know...it is the state of affairs in our 21st century...but still, one does wonder why these girls would even think to do such a horrible thing? The parents of the girls are shocked, of course, and simply cannot believe that their teen would do such a thing. I want to know why they are shocked because this type of behavior doesn't just show up one day. One day, your girl is playing Barbie's and the next day she is beating a teen senseless. No, no, no.

Today, I read on Fox News that the victim will be home schooled through the end of her high school years (guessing two more). What a said turn of events. This girl now must be home schooled to protect her safety as well as to help her recoup some measure of security. I am sure the anti-home school league will rise up and make some sort of comment about why this is not a good solution to the problem and those on the left will decry that more money given to education would have helped prevent such a beating.

The problem as I see it is a lack of character education at both home and school. One hundred years ago, students were taught that character did indeed count. The virtues of honor, integrity, and kindness were highly valued and students who exhibited such "character" were lauded and praised. We no longer consider these to be valuable assets in education. Parents are not teaching their children right from wrong and schools are no longer allowed to instill values or morals in the classroom. Why? Simply because we now live in a "relative" society and what is good for you, may not be good for me. If we do not embrace one system of societal values, a general assumption of what is good and bad, then we cannot expect our children to develop attributes that reflect these values in the choices they make, in the friends they keep, and in the way they choose to live their lives.

At one time, the general guiding force in America was founded on Judeo-Christian values. The Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule -- "do unto others as you would have others do unto you" (a corruption of Jesus' words to Love your neighbor as yourself") used to form the basis of our value system. In the last 60 years, our country has been attacked by people who do not share these same values. They instead want a country that is value-less. It is impossible to judge another person if you have no established sense of value.

The truth is that we are living in the light of this core value change. We have seen a generation or two grow up without any values and as such they are living examples of what kinds of people are created when there is no "right" or "wrong."

The Definition of Character Education

Character education involves teaching children about basic human values including honesty, kindness, generosity, courage, freedom, equality, and respect.

The goal is to raise children to become morally responsible, self-disciplined citizens. Problem solving, decision making, and conflict resolution are important parts of developing moral character. Through role playing and discussions, children can see that their decisions affect other people and things.

Source: From The Language of Learning: A Guide to Education Terms, by J. L. McBrien & R. S. Brandt, pp. 17-18, 1997, Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

There is a push on now to try and put character education back into the public school system. Non-partisan programs such as Character Counts are popping in schools throughout the country. The problem is that these programs teach that the outcome of character training -- the end result -- can come through mental assent and training of the will. They leave out the fundamental ingredient which is a change of heart. Without a heart bent towards mercy and graciousness, the resulting actions simply are "put on" and not inwardly or foundational motivations. Why should I be nice to you, if you are not going to be nice to me?

The Bible speaks of this type of love between friends -- a love that seeks it's motivation in a returned response. I will help you because you have helped me. I will be kind to you because you have been kind to me. The problem is that this kind of affection or attitude only works so long as both parties are equally sharing the responsibility and tending to the needs of the other. It is a very idealistic type of love -- the one Thomas More wrote about in his work, Utopia. The kind of love that many sincere secular and religious people still believe is possible and that can indeed reshape and redevelop our world.

The Bible, however, is clear that while this kind of love is a good thing, it is not the kind of love that really can reshape and redevelop our world at all. No, the kind of love that can do this is the love shown by our Creator and by His Son, Jesus. Agape love is the only kind that truly can impact and change our world. It happens one heart at a time and it requires more than simply "choosing" to do the right thing. It requires a heart that "knows and understands" what the right thing is and chooses to do it -- no matter if the other person or circumstance warrants it. It is not "I'll help you if you help me" -- it is "I'll help you because you need my help." This kind of love can only spring forth from a heart that has experienced it first hand. The only way to do this is to encounter the God of Love and to receive His blessing freely. A changed heart will engender changed attitudes and changed actions. Only the Lord above has the power to change hearts and to change minds set on destructive behavior. Only the Lord can forgive the sinner, pardon the sin, and create newness where there was once only deadness and rotten matter.

Oh how our children need character training now -- but not the kind the public schools are teaching. We need Biblical character training -- the kind Jesus taught -- the kind that can only be taught by the Lord and through His word.

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