There is a conversation currently circulating among educators about the lack of character education in schools across the Nation. Concerns are building about the absence of character, morality and ethics in classrooms and student’s weak or even broken moral compass. Do students today have opportunities to consider their own moral code and how it affects others? Do they have the opportunity to grapple with big questions about right and wrong, personal values and their own ethics? Happily, here at the Waldorf School of Lexington the answer is yes, they do. Indeed it is woven into the very fabric of Waldorf education and a critical component of our shared community values.
A key aim of Waldorf education is to educate children from the inside out—to support them in developing a sense of who they are in the world and allowing them room to develop their own core, sense of self and moral compass.
One powerful and recent example of this is the 5th grade Olympic Games. From the preparation and training that begins months in advance, to the oath taking at the commencement of the event and the competition itself, students are working on themes of good sportsmanship, team dynamics and personal integrity as well as strength, grace and agility.
The oath-taking is a powerful moment, with the words of the oath, spoken in unison by all of the competitors. “I do solemnly swear by all-father Zeus, that I have been preparing for these games. I promise to abide by the rules of the contest. I will do my best. I will play fair. I will not argue with the judges or with other participants. I promise to conduct myself in such a way as to call forth the blessings of the gods, always showing strength, and grace, and skill and all the fine qualities of good sportsmanship. So help me Zeus!”
The gravity of this moment is palpable and resonates through the proceedings. How amazing it is to take such a public oath of fairness. Imagine being asked to swear such an oath as an adult, in the professional sports arena or in the boardroom.
Here, students are not only asked to make an oath to play fair and to do their best, but they are encouraged to reflect on this momentous event afterward, and write not only of their memories of the day, but of their feelings.
“I did not receive a wreath, but I know I had the time of my life and I will keep these memories with me for years to come.”
“I ran the hardest I have ever run…My group and I cheered for everyone. I kept telling myself that to me, having fun is more important than winning.”
These are just a few reflections from the most recent 5th Grade Olympics. This event serves as one milestone in a well-considered and thoughtfully planned education that not only teaches solid academic skills but supports and encourages the whole child to develop and strengthen from within—to be a strong, well-grounded and a valuable member of society.