While finishing my dinner after a presentation for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) in San Antonio, a few years ago, I thought I recognized one of the three people sitting at the next table. Their order had just been taken, and so I took advantage of the time before their food was served. I approached the table. The result was a most interesting conversation with John Glenn, his wife, and a representative of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
The former astronaut (first American to orbit the earth, 1962, and former four-term Ohio Senator) recently initiated a "service leadership" program, a joint effort of the John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy and the Kellogg Foundation.
I mentioned that I had been the principal of Norwalk High School when he visited John Glenn High School, his namesake, and a neighboring high school in the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District in Los Angeles County. My point to him was that the "service learning" project is a very significant contribution.
Past generations had a high priority for teaching qualities of character—such as respect for elders, appropriate dress showing deference to the occasion, manners, and those behaviors that make for social civility.
However, young parents of recent generations emphasize feeling over behavior. parents are very concerned with children's happiness. Children are often given, not only what they desire, but also additional services and items of material value in attempts to make them happy. Good intentions, but this can lead to dependency and lack of responsibility.
Since self-esteem and how people feel have become of paramount importance, parents believe that external approaches such as rewarding youngsters for appropriate behavior and praising them for good acts are thought to be necessary.
Good intentions, again! But look at the results. Youngsters ask, "If I do that, what will I get?"
The simple wisdom has been lost. People gain and grow by GIVING, rather than by receiving. It is in the EFFORT that a person grows. Self-worth emanates from feelings of satisfaction—rather than by external comments from other people.
I am not suggesting that people should not be recognized, but I am suggesting that feelings and beliefs of self-worth do not emanate from external sources. They are the result of our thinking and what we do—our efforts and the satisfactions that come from them.
John Glenn's "service learning" encourages one of the most valuable approaches towards growth and responsibility. As the motto of Rotary International states, "Service Above Self."