I love the summer in part because I have more time to read. A recent essay by David Brooks caught my attention. His article entitled “How America Got Mean” made me curious as I had been thinking some of those same thoughts myself. I was feeling grateful to be at Brimmer where I did not have to be part of that meaner world I was seeing and hearing about in the news and during some of my summer conversations.
The article proports that being mean is a result of society’s deterioration of upholding a moral code. Right away, I knew that was the reason Brimmer felt different and set apart from other ways of life. We do not lack a moral code.
Brook’s points and examples of historical events were thought provoking and worth consideration. He outlines many events in previous centuries and decades that made people question the idea of morality and challenged the idea of who decides what is to be valued and deemed important. Regardless of why we have lost our moral codes, Brooks concludes his essay by writing, “We have to build moral communities because on our own we are selfish and flawed. Moral formation is best when it is humble. It means giving people the skills and habits that will help them be considerate to others in the complex situations in life. It means helping people behave in ways that make others feel included, seen, and respected.”
At Brimmer we seek to have a moral community and strive to educate for character as part of our daily work and school practice. Our five Core Values — Respect, Responsibility, Honesty, Kindness, and Equity — guide our actions and daily decisions. Imagine if we were able to follow these core values every day, all the time. According to Brooks, we would feel less lonely, less sad, and be less unkind.
Our imaginations serve as the spark that ignites change. So, for a few minutes, join me in imagining what might be possible.
Imagine if we lived as a moral community so much that the people around you lived life with these values in action all the time. Imagine small acts of kindness so others feel seen and respected. Imagine including people in our conversations and listening to their views even when they differ from our own. Imagine if we always choose to be honest and resist every temptation of getting a better grade by breaking honesty and slanting the truth. Imagine if we valued equity over personal gains and immediate pleasures. Imagine if we could help people feel less lonely and sad.
Then, imagine if we lived as a moral community regarding the places we inhabit. Imagine our school spaces being less wasteful, our use of energy less demanding, our ability to share spaces with quiet respect. Imagine if the people in our country were at peace with each other and that we choose to “nurture cooperation” instead of giving in to self-serving greed. Imagine our world having ethical codes that could help “each nation live in peace and feel secure within their borders.”
Imagine if we lived as a moral community so that the resources we use every day were considered precious, scarce, and shared. Imagine if we shifted personal consumption less towards the self and more towards being responsible for others. Would we use less water? What if we acted more responsibly in our land of plenty, would we use less energy? If we reused and recycled, would our oceans be cleaner, and our earth’s weather patterns less volatile?
Just as Brooks said past generations have challenged the idea of what constitutes morality, I know past generations have also imagined a better world and have explored this idea of imagining what life can be at its best. Plato, the great Greek philosopher during the Classical period, said “kindness is more than deeds. It is an attitude, an expression, a look, a touch. It is anything that lifts another person.”
As I begin a new school year with you, I wonder if we could just imagine what might be possible if we try even harder to focus on our core values. Maybe the Brimmer headline or title of a Gator article could read, “How Brimmer Helped America Get Kinder.”