“The first principle of value that we need to rediscover is this: that all reality hinges on moral foundations. In other words, that this is a moral universe, and that there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
I like to believe that I possess good personal values: I am an honest soul who lives by the Golden Rule.
I was fortunate to be raised by parents who believed that a strong value system is the foundation for personal and professional success, and ultimately, for a happy life. My wish is that every child has someone in his or her life to teach them the same.
In addition to my parents, my values were shaped in part by a junior high school teacher everyone called Coach West (he coached the school’s football team). I took several classes with Coach West, including an elective in 7th grade simply called “Values.” To this day, I still remember that class.
Coach West had a hardscrabbled childhood in a small Midwestern town. He was a serious-minded man who looked and walked and even talked a bit like John Wayne, one of his heroes. Coach West had never been to college but he’d fought in World War II, even though he’d lost an eye as a young boy in a traffic accident.
Coach West created the “Values” class because he was shocked at what he considered to be a lack of values among contemporary teens (something that has persisted for countless generations).
Coach West didn’t use a lot of fancy talk in teaching values, no discussion of teleological ethics or Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative. In fact, the class had no syllabus, outline or book. Coach West simply introduced us to one value each week – Honesty; Responsibility; Loyalty; etc. – by writing the value on a chalkboard, then explaining its importance through anecdotes taken from his own life. We never took a test in “Values;” we wrote essays examining the importance of each value in our own lives. The class was a simple concept, and it worked.
I now try to instill good values in my young daughter. Like my parents, I believe strong values are the foundation for happiness. My hope is that my daughter instills the same sense of importance about values in her children so the tradition may continue.