Young People and the Importance of Character
Think a child's future hinges on their IQ? Think again.
Studies show that while IQ is important to an individual's career, character strengths are more important to ensure positive life outcomes.
But what constitutes “character”?
Character is an integral part of a person’s personality. It is a holistic summation of a number of traits that benefit both an individual and those around them. Traits like gratitude, empathy, kindness, curiosity, self-control and grit can’t be taught in the classroom.
Importance of Character
In today's hyper-competitive and self-serving world, it's become more important than ever to make character development an integral component of a child’s formative years, so that they can be successful and so that they can make the world a better place.
The strength of a person does not come from their academic qualification or the depth of their pockets. The real strength of a person lies in their character.
A person of character will always be valued for their opinions, for their values, for being who they are. These character strengths, particularly in young teens who are extremely impressionable, come from their parents, mentors, and teachers. These elders need to ensure that children develop the traits and qualities that go into making a sound character and a conscientious human being.
Character Building Through Education
Education is one of the most comprehensive tools that can be used to equip young people with the knowledge, experiences, and relationships to build a sound character.
The goal of all educational institutions should be to strengthen the character of young people under their care, through challenging and engaging academic work. By fostering a sense of trust and free exchange of thoughts and ideas, providing opportunities to explore new places and cultures, and promoting a sense of respect toward diversity, schools will enable students to find their own place in the world as mindful global citizens.
Some top-tier academic institutions have already started to assess students based on their personality traits outside of performance in the classroom. Riverdale Country School in NYC, for example, has designed its curriculum around building character skills not just through traditional classroom learning but also through travel and community service experiences.
Experiential Travel Builds Character
Travel can play a massive role in building the character of young people. When people travel abroad, they not only get a chance to see a new place but also to absorb that place's culture, tradition, history, geography, language, and ways of life. This in itself is an enriching experience for anyone, of any age.
Some of the direct benefits of traveling for many young people include:
When young people travel abroad, especially to places where people speak a different language, they must learn a few basic words in the native language to find their way around. Acquiring a new language is a fascinating prospect and reveals how flexible a person can be when adapting to a new environment. It also teaches people how to communicate and network, a skill which is useful both in classrooms as a student and later in the workplace as an adult.
Travel also teaches young people how to make decisions confidently. From deciding what to pack, to deciding how to spend their money, travel naturally allows young people to be independent thinkers and decision makers. Through travel, they begin to understand the value of good decisions and how their choices affect others.
Travel teaches young people how to embrace diversity and helps them relate to other people in positive ways. They begin to understand that there are people who are different from them in terms of physical appearance, eating habits, way of dressing, manner of speaking and so on. Travel teaches us to understand the value of being tolerant, liberal-minded and empathetic. Consequently, when young people travel, they open up their minds and become more accepting of the world and all those who live within it.
With the potential to change the world, it is imperative that young people are given space and encouraged to be independent thinkers. People learn to be responsible, aware and fearless, once they begin to travel. A well planned experiential travel program can be exactly what a young mind needs to gain the critical thinking skills necessary to be happy and successful in the long run.
Rome was not built in a day, nor will character be developed overnight. But with a bit of practice, a few life-changing experiences abroad and being surrounded by thoughtful role models, young people can develop their character in such a way so as to become resourceful, open-minded, critical thinkers who will lead us successfully into the future.