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The School Newspaper of Lawrence High School.

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The School Newspaper of Lawrence High School.

The Budget

New CharacterStrong lessons aren’t working

New social/emotional curriculum isn’t proving effective at addressing character development
Morgan Salisbury
It’s time for a clean slate.

The implementation of CharacterStrong highlights a major issue with our district: We have such a problem with behavior that we have turned to highly ineffective supplementary content to try to fight this issue.

In reality, they’ve resolved to waste precious time, attention and resources, for a program that only diminishes student interest in participation to build character.

According to their website, “CharacterStrong provides research-based Pre-K through 12th grade social & emotional learning curricula and professional learning services that positively impact lives.” While I would agree that it strives to do all of these things, the actual results, in my experience, are quite different.

The basic premise of CharacterStrong is centered around a number of materials including watching short student panels that were usually conducted on virtual calls, videos conducted by speakers or other people or going through a series of “character building activities” to bolster student emotional intelligence. This happens every Tuesday, during the 30-minute period that has been allotted for Xello and Character Strong.

These lessons vary in length, purpose and direction but are all unified in quality. That is to say, the quality of all of them is very low. The greatest example of this horrendous quality was made extremely evident to me recently in a lesson.

On Halloween, I witnessed a truly horrifying session, more so than any other. For more than five minutes, we watched a video of a man brag about how he met Jerry West in an elevator and how he was nice to him. A significant part of the 30-minute lesson time watching, discussing and pondering a video of a Lakers fan talking about riding an elevator with an 85-year-old retired basketball player and how he was nicer than he thought he would be.

Following that lesson we listened to Hope, a millennial singer-songwriter with aggressive vocal fry sing a fake-indie song, half of which was just her singing “heys” and “oh’s” and playing two chords on a guitar. This video was eight minutes long.

Then finally we watched a video of a high school senior, who discussed the story of his school experiencing a shooting. He talked about the value of kindness, and how experiencing trauma in his community made him realize the importance of respect, a genuinely heartfelt and important message that students should hear. This portion of the lesson was honestly very moving, the only problem with this, is that due to the lesson plan, we had to sit through a man fanboying for five minutes about a senior citizen and a random woman sing a full-length song with a barely applicable connection to the lesson.

This highlights the main problem with CharacterStrong: It completely destroys any interest students would have in building character. The out-of-touch tone, thematic inconsistency and general corny nature make students view it as a weekly joke that is endured, not an activity to be participated in. Teachers are just as disinterested, too.

By most accounts, the majority of teachers muddle through CharacterStrong with an annoyed attitude. I can’t blame them. How much class time gets taken by activities that no one in the room is going to participate in?

The importance of Character Strong’s goal is not lost on me, but the actual implementation of their content is abysmal. I can’t envision how the lessons are meant to instill the message shown at the end of the slideshows. The connection to character building is feeble at its best.

There isn’t an immediately obvious solution to our behavior problems, that much is true, and the idea of using supplemental content, while inherently concerning, may in fact be necessary. However, the current state of CharacterStrong is appalling, and the content decreases participation and wastes everyone’s time.

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About the Contributors
Finn Lotton-Barker
Finn Lotton-Barker, Social Media Co-Editor in Chief
I'm a fourth-year staffer and second-year editor-in-chief for the journalism program. I have worked as a writer, reporter, designer, website editor-in-chief, and social media editor-in-chief in my time on staff. I have placed at state in KSPA multiple times in multiple categories and have had my stories featured on 'Best of Student Newspaper Online' numerous times. Outside of journalism, I participate in student council, scholars bowl, marching and concert band, and Lawrence Ballet Theatre. For any questions concerning our coverage, feel free to email me at [email protected] or [email protected].
Morgan Salisbury
Morgan Salisbury, Tech Editor
In my second year on staff, I've been focusing on design, graphics, and helping out wherever I can. When I'm not working on school, you'll find me listening to music, petting my dog, or trying to relax.

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