And In This Corner…Values

By: Sheila M. Anthony

You don’t need to tell The Chalmers Academy that core values are in crisis. Leaders can’t keep their pants on, pornography has groped its way into family entertainment, and someone keeps ignoring the clearly worded, multilingual sign we posted and urinating on our HVAC unit. But look who we’re preaching to — a rube who’s been stabbed in the back so many times his shirt looks like a pub dartboard. Fine. You can take care of yourself, but what about that nice kid of yours? How will he survive this roiling cesspool of a world? With a values-based education, that’s how. Here at Chalmers your child will discover transparency of information, self-respect, and how to say what he means and mean what he says. He’ll learn to do the right thing surrounded by a supportive community: fellow saps desperate to shore up collapsing standards.

What are values anyway?

Let’s say you’re walking by a lake and you see a man drowning. You pretend to be blind, so you don’t have to deal with it. Then he cries out for help. Great. Now you have to be blind and deaf, which is difficult because at least with the blind thing you can employ props like dark glasses and a Braille newspaper. Clearly you have no values or the wrong kind.

At Chalmers we cultivate only positive values like respect, tolerance, and personal responsibility. For instance, in the above example you might be encouraged to toss the struggling man a life preserver, call in the help of a trained professional like a lifeguard, or mime an appropriate swim stroke so the victim can save himself.

Shouldn’t I just jump in?

You always want to arrive at the best possible solution before taking any action. This requires reflection. First, choose a comfortable location like your favorite chair or Europe. Then ask yourself a series of questions: What is your attitude toward the situation? What choices can you make? You’ve tolerated his screaming, isn’t that enough?

But he’s drowning!

So, is that your fault? No one told him to scarf down a steak burrito then go swimming. Now, because of him, you’ll never be able to go near a body of water again. You’ll have to vacation in places you hate, like the desert.

I don’t know…I want my kid to learn clear-cut values like “The Golden Rule” and “turn the other cheek.”

Teach your child to turn the other cheek, and he’ll have his first cheek handed back to him in a sandwich. Trust us, our nurse’s office used to look like a delicatessen.

Maybe I should just get on the ball and teach him values at home.

Oh, is that why you downloaded this brochure? Besides, if you teach them at home then you’re on the hook if he torches your town’s 400-year-old chestnut tree or saws the neighbor’s garage in half. But by paying someone else to teach him values, you get to blame them if things don’t work out. And $40,000 a year buys a lot of blame.

Eesh. Forty grand a year? For a day school? That’s pretty steep, isn’t it?

Listen, cheapskate, we don’t just teach values, we live them. Half our staff is in hiding for doing the right thing. Do you know what decent lawyers and PR representation cost? Plenty. And don’t think that at forty thousand a year all we do is attract snobby rich kids. You’re also paying through the nose so your child can study alongside those who haven’t had it so easy.

Gee, maybe my kid’ll finally be grateful for what he has. And it’s time he learned to empathize with the less fortunate.

Unless the “less fortunate” grow to despise him because they’re on the fast track to “more fortunate.” No self-respecting poor kid wants to wind up a pansy-ass bleeding heart willing to slide over for anyone on the bus.

You make it sound like my kid’s going to be hung out like a sheet.

Not without consequences, he isn’t. Consider this: an overly empathetic child is pummeled in dodge ball by the very kids whose friendship he thought he’d won. Obviously relational trust has broken down. But don’t worry. At Chalmers we bring all involved parties together, and in a safe, caring environment, the child will express how he felt about being mercilessly picked on. That is, if he can speak at all. Sometimes a student can spit out what’s left of his teeth and mumble a few words as he’s being lifted onto a stretcher. Sometimes not. It all depends on how bad he’s hemorrhaging.

My kid’s gonna get beaten up?!

Relax. It was just a hypothetical situation. On the other hand, nothing prepares a child for the real world like the bitter taste of betrayal and a spine held together with steel pins. Yes, sticks and stones do break bones. And if you think words can never hurt you, then you’ve never faced a propaganda campaign.

Okay, but how does all this “values” stuff work with a regular education? My kid’ll learn how to graph a parabola and do a Google search, right?

Your child will learn positive values as he receives a sterling education because they’re seamlessly incorporated into the curriculum. Along with challenging academics, students are confronted with morally ambivalent situations. Large amounts of cash are often left lying around, usually next to weapons and drugs. Gym classes include pole dancing and stripping options just to see who goes for it. As students progress, they face increasingly nuanced dilemmas. After all, out in the real world your child won’t be deciding between right and wrong, he’ll be grappling with the lesser of two evils. Discerning between good and bad is fairly straightforward. Weighing bad against worse is trickier, and one usually needs an experienced guide. Someone who’s managed to avoid a prison sentence, for instance.

But that’s who I want my kid to stand up to, not learn from.

Good luck with that. The smarter a person is, the greater the range of corruption he can justify. Besides, society loves intelligent, charismatic criminals. They’re “winners” and the kinds of people companies and governments really want to hire because they make things happen. Not only do nice guys finish last, they usually do it wearing t-shirts that say “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”

Okay, wise guy, do your kids go to this school?

All you need to know is that at Chalmers we offer a values-based education that teaches students to ask tough questions of themselves, their community, and the world at large. But if they start asking The Chalmers Academy tough questions, they’re out of here. No one likes a critic.


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