While providing an outstanding academic program, we believe that personal character, the composite of achievement ethics and social responsibility, can become the most vital factor in the success and fulfillment of an adolescent.
According to its Greek root, character means “enduring marks.” It describes the human virtues that are engraved into an individual through education and training, an accumulation of habits and dispositions that make us who we are and how we behave.
At Birchwood, our emphasis on character development and habit formation is rooted in our philosophy about human nature. We hold that to become fully human is to become virtuous, generally defined by the Greek cardinal virtues (justice, courage, self-control, and practical wisdom). Virtue, as a way of life, requires habits.
For our purposes at Birchwood we organize these virtues into two categories – being just toward self and being just toward others. Children have a responsibility to themselves, to develop their own talents and aptitudes.
Whether in school, music, sports, or the arts, children learn to have goals and they develop good work habits and productive attitudes in order to realize their goals. In being just toward themselves, children also possess the habit of self-reflection.
They come to understand their strengths and weaknesses and they identify problems or opportunities that lie before them. Habits of self-reflection lead to action and achievement. Children who are just toward themselves are children who are continually growing and flourishing.
A virtuous life also has an interpersonal or social component. Personal growth and development will be limited if it is not joined with social responsibility. A virtuous child is a child who has learned to be a compassionate and productive member of society.
During childhood that society begins with family. Here a child understands that he is a part of a whole, he has responsibilities within the family to be supportive and loving. When children reach school age, the society becomes friends and classmates.
Social awareness expands. Children learn to understand how their conduct interfaces with and affects individuals and their social group. In other words, a healthy, virtuous child understands the “role” they need to play among friends and classmates. Personal fulfillment goes hand in hand with healthy and productive social participation.