Building Character through Cornerstone Values
Building Character through Cornerstone Values is an indigenous New
Zealand approach to the development of character which had its origins
at the Waihopai School, Invercargill, following the 1989 reforms known
as "Tomorrow's Schools" and the provision for local learning objectives
in a school charter.
The Cornerstone Values approach seeks to build character through:
- Teaching by precept and example, eight cornerstone values, the law of consequences and rational-decision making.
- Developing in students the ability to recognise and practise cornerstone values.
What the Cornerstone Values Approach is not
- A religious programme but cornerstone values are upheld by all major religions and philosophies
- A life skills programme but it provides an essential foundation to many existing life skills programmes
- An addition to the school curriculum but delivers the approach through the existing curriculum
- A class programme but an approach that links knowledge, attitudes and behaviour
The approach is not a clip-on but an infusion that informs and directs everything that happens in a school; in the principal's office, the board meeting, the staff- student relationships, the classroom, the playing fields and the way students are permitted to treat each other.
It is concerned with the creation of an appropriate school culture and recognizes that values are communicated through relationships.
The eight cornerstone values are principles that are consistent, universal, and transcultural. They build character that produces behaviour that is beneficial for the individual, others and the community.
The eight cornerstone values are drawn from the research of C. S. Lewis. They are honesty and truthfulness, kindness, consideration and concern for others, compassion, obedience, responsibility, respect and duty.
The Cornerstone Values approach recognizes that each of the eight cornerstone values has knowledge, attitude and behavioural components that are inextricably linked to the three attributes of character - knowing the good, desiring the good and doing the good.
The Approach Addresses Three Key Questions
- Why teach values?
- What values should be taught?
- How can these values be taught?
Universality of Application
One of the significant features of the Cornerstone Values approach is the universality of its application. Not only does it apply to families, schools, community groups and business but also to all levels of schooling. In the school the principles and teaching content are fixed but the methodology and resources change to remain age appropriate.
Other strengths are that the approach is community based, it does not add to an already crowded curriculum and has the overwhelming support of parents.
Empowers Young People
The approach empowers young people by making them keenly aware that it is their own character that is at stake and challenges them to consider such questions as:
- What kind of a person am I becoming?
- What kind of a person do I want to be?
- How shall I live with others?
At the same time the approach:
Helps young people understand that character determines behaviour just as behaviour demonstrates character
- Enables young people to develop the skills of rational decision-making
- Enables young people to cope with peer and societal pressure
- Enables young people to accept responsibility and accountability for personal behaviour
- Helps young people to become responsible and caring members of the community
- Encourages young people to be concerned for others and for the greater good
- Encourages young people to contribute to the well being of the community
The Cornerstone Values Parent Survey enables schools to obtain quantitative information from parents concerning their attitude to character education.
The purpose of the survey is to obtain quantitative information from parents concerning:
- The type of person they wanted their child/ren to be
- The importance placed on the school teaching values
- The values to be emphasised in the school
- The inclination to send children to a school teaching a values education programme
The New Zealand Foundation for Character Education commissioned the Southern Institute of Technology to trial the survey in four schools.
The results showed that there was a high degree of similarity in the desired personal qualities and overwhelming support for character education.
Literature the Heart of the Approach
The Cornerstone Values approach to character education recognizes that stories either read or told have always been the favourite strategy of the world’s greatest moral teachers. There are probably a number of reasons for this.
- They teach by attraction rather than compulsion
- They invite rather than impose
- They capture the imagination and touch the heart
Principal Plays Key Role
A school’s principal plays a key role in the implementation of the Cornerstone Values approach to character education. Indeed, without leadership from the principal it is unlikely that the approach can be effectively implemented.
One Parent's Comment
I find it frustrating that it is necessary to teach my three children to treat others as they themselves want to be treated while at the same time warning them not to expect the same in return. Cornerstone Values gives me hope that society's attitudes can be turned around, and that if children are encouraged, at home and in school, to develop good, basic unchangeable values, we will all be free to enjoy a fuller life.
About The New Zealand Foundation for Character Education Incorporated
The New Zealand Foundation for Character Education Inc., is a non-profit organization without religious or political affiliation, which was established in 1993 to fund the preparation, publication and promotion of character education resources.
The Foundation is funded from grants, donations, the sale of resources and seminar fees.