Connecting Character to Conduct: Helping Students do the Right Thing

The Values Caucus present ROBERTA RICHIN

Connecting Character to Conduct: Helping Students do the Right Thing

  • Roberta is a national consultant to schools, law enfrocement agencies, corporations and families on prejudice reduction.
  • She is the Educational Coordinator to Suffolk County, New York USA District Attorney’s Office Stop Bias Program
  • She is the Author of the 1995 HIV/AIDS Instructional Guide for the New York State Education Department.

May 3, 2002.

We opened with a moment of silence. Monica Willard, who invited our guest speaker facilitated.

Our guest speaker, Roberta Richin, co-author of Connecting Character to Conduct, offered an educative approach to building values in the context of The Special Session for Children that is happening at the UN.

Her system called RICE may be understood as an integration of child development, healing, and systems theory. In introducing her perspective, she reminded us that a value is inactive until we manifest it in action. Child raising today disconnects who we are from what we do. The job today is to reconnect doing with being. In looking for a framework that activates values Ms. Richin suggested that intention is the oxygen with which we activate them. It is important to check in with oneself on a daily basis to determine our practice of keeping the intention with which we started the day. When we do, we feel better. Intention requires lots of routes. When one is blocked, we need another. Thus, we also learn to be resourceful.

She engaged us to enter into the space of positive assumption that we will find common ground –to hold hope as an action. Her goal is not to elevate or to isolate but to connect. She cautioned that our weakness is greatest with what we take for granted. Uni-culture actually breeds the greatest conflict because of the fixed assumptions contained. It offers as well the fewest routes to activate our intentions. In collaborative work with diverse others, we heal ourselves.

Sometimes we need to go all the way to connect. Intention guides the direction. If shared purpose is abandoned, we lose track of our values. Divergent purposes generate conflict. To keep us on track, we may ask what is our shared purpose and what must we do to organize action upon that. Shared purpose needs to be understood on the interpersonal, social, and values-based level. We must also recognize differences within the group. All of us have a life team, some of whom do the work and some who applaud. We are interdependent upon both and are called upon to do both at times. Giving ourselves to the process of determining actions built upon shared purpose results in a more thoughtful person.

She then discussed roles and rules. Roles may be defined by your area of accountability, eg., where you steer your own car. Stepping out of role (in the midst of a project) weakens the power of all. One mistake is to step at the edges of accountability and look to what others do. This threatens the safety of the system. Rules are social agreements that always apply. Procedures are how the rules are applied. The goal is to nurture individual expression that matches the shared purpose. Procedures help the individual to follow the who, what, where, and when of an endeavor.

RICE is a systems approach for both preventing and resolving conflict. RICE is an acronym for Respect, Impulse control, Compassion and Equity. These values were adopted because they foster the climate for growth and development as well as provide specific rules children can understand and become empowered when they practice them. Respect exists in every culture. Impulse control is the sine qua non of civilized society (emotional toilet training). Compassion is one small part caring and 99% empathy, Compassion requires a form of moral rigor. Equity means not the same, but what each needs to get what she/he needs to succeed. Together these principles can both prevent and resolve conflict as they pave the way to a multicultural, multidimensional experience. Regarding systems approaches Richin sagely commented we need to evaluate them in terms of where they lead. She observed that we need to do “bowling alley” things not “supermarket things.” Disciplined initiative contributes more than passive aquiescence (consumption).

Roberta Richin offered many grounded examples and experiences both as an educator and in her work with law enforcement agencies in Suffolk County. She is a staff and curriculum development specialist consulting to public and private schools, universities, law enforcement agencies, health services, parent organizations, state education departments, and corporations. Richin brought over 25 years of experience to this model for improving student learning, school safety, character, and conduct through curriculum, instruction, and discipline practices. She is an adjunct instructor at The State University of New York at Stony Brook and has published a variety of journal articles and curricula.

Those who participated in this interactive presentation left energized and grounded in the practicability of values-based commitments for both nurturing the whole child and peacebuilding in the global arena.

Julia Grindon-Welch closed the meeting with a moment of silence.