An international conference on character education in Washington included a Central New Yorker spreading his word on how story-telling can work at schools, in business and in our communities. The idea might not just build character; it could also be a remedy to our current divisive politics.
Some from the education sector and form the corporate world believe building character is important for good students and good employees.
“Everything from self-control, to forgiveness, to respect and responsibility, to caring and compassion, to perseverance, to honesty, integrity, in terms of democratic formation and business, these are the types of qualities a good citizen should have.”
Ralph Singh believes there’s great power in storytelling to get at these values. His work with Wisdom Thinkers in schools and business settings helps break down personal and cultural barriers that lead to misunderstanding and worse. It’s the spiritual group Singh is part of, Gobind Sadan that right after the 9-11 attacks, was burned down
“…by four kids who didn’t know our story, and confused our turban with followers of (Osama) Bin Laden. Our story was, we went public with a very powerful statement of forgiveness and felt, ‘these are our children, these are our community.’ Yes, hate crime, but it grows out of ignorance.”
That ignorance, Singh suggests, is not that different from the political divides of the current election.
“First, my disclaimer, I am not running for office," jokes Singh. He adds, "A democracy functions when there is an ethos. And ethos has to be a shared set of values. We are so far away form being able to express that. If we are to be democratic, it demands that we find and work toward a shared narrative.”
Singh says storytelling can work to develop some of that connection in schools and other settings.
He shared the methods and the message at the National Forum on Character Education in Washington.