Years ago, I took a character education class that was held on the campus of a local high school. We met one evening per week, way down at the end of the main building, in an isolated kind of space, a pie-shaped classroom with doors on each side. The hallway that ran behind it contained student restrooms, and led out to the athletic fields and a parking lot. Not one that we could park in, mind you. We had to park out front and traipse through dim hallways to arrive at our classroom. Most of us found out early on that it was best to use the restrooms on the main hall, because they had doors. The ones by our classroom had no outer doors, and only one stall inside with a door. I suppose the reasoning would be to prevent clandestine activities in such a remote part of the school.
Our instructor was all gung-ho for character education. As faculty members, we were daily examples for our students. Our actions could sway them in any direction. Were we people of character? Teacher Lady lived in black and white. No gray areas for her. Like Boston Rob on Survivor, her attitude was, "If you're not with me, you're against me." No such thing as a little white lie for her. A lie is a lie, no matter how you slice it or embellish it or dress it up an parade it around for the purpose of sparing somebody's feelings. In Teacher Lady's book, any time a wife asked, "Does this dress make me look fat?" the husband needed to answer truthfully. If you saw your best friend out with a gentleman who was not her spouse, it was your duty to inform her husband.
Class time was full of just such scenarios, and discussions of how we might react, and how a person of character would react. Teachers shared stories of recent events at school, wherein they had made a conscious decision to act as a person of character. Teacher Lady was well on her way to indoctrinating her roster.
About six weeks into the course, we heard a ruckus in the hallway one evening. There was the sound of running, girls giggling, guys laughing. I assumed some student-athletes had come in after a track meet. As teachers ourselves, we strove to be good students. We tried to concentrate on Teacher Lady's lecture. Then we heard a girl squeal, "Stop! Get out! You're not supposed to be in here!" It was not in the playful manner of the previous exchanges.
Nobody went to investigate. One man even got up and closed the door on that side. Teacher Lady nodded to him. She heard it. Yet she did nothing. Which ruined her credibility for me. It was all an act. A lecture. Lip service. Even without my recent instruction in the tenets of character education, I felt that somebody needed to check on the situation. I am ashamed to say that I, too, did nothing. I've never been one to rock the boat, to stick my neck out, to upset the apple cart. But somebody should have checked! It's like we all sat there, meekly, waiting to inherit the earth.
The final nail that Teacher Lady drove into her own coffin, as far as I was concerned, was the night she rejected the subject of my required report on a person of character. I asked if Kurt Warner would be suitable. It's not like there was enough of Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa to go around. Teacher Lady waved her hand dismissively, and said that we were not here to write about sports figures. I might have imagined it, but I think I detected an eye roll, and "Pshaw!" in that little exchange.
You, Teacher Lady, are no Kurt Warner.