Monday, August 07, 2006

Tennessee's "Character Cities"

I write quite a bit about values and I believe that we should not cede them to conservatives. While I have engaged the subject of character less than values, I feel just as strongly that progressives should be intentional about character. The root of the English word "character" is the Greek word for a mark impressed on coins; such an enduring mark gives distinction of one from another.

So, it is with some interest that I have been reading about cities that have either adopted curriculum or received help from the International Association of Character Cities (IACC). After reading a Texas Observer article on one such community, I was impressed by how the conservative emphasis on character confuses character with unquestioning submission to authority. That is not surprising, since the IACC is a division of ultraconservative evangelist Bill Gothard's controversial "Character Training Institute."*

It is ironic that the conservative interpretation of character has little to do with distinction or uniqueness and more to do with obedience and conformity. The conservatives are also just plain wrong in defining character by the extremes of dominion and submission; Aristotle, the classical father of character development, maintained that character had to do with balance or hitting a mean between extremes. Hence, extremes of dominion and submission actually enslaved and eventually killed character. So, the extremist view taken by these "Character Cities" is more perilous than healthy for character development. And one has to wonder about the agenda of so-called "Character Councils" in some of these cities.

Are there any Tennessee cities listed as IACC-affiliated "Character Cities"? Indeed. They include: Elizabethton, which is in far east Tennessee and Hohenwald, which is about 100 miles south of Nashville. Keep an eye out, though. They might be looking for other local communities to recruit.


*Bill Gothard is a professional theorist on how family units ought to work; the problem is he lacks experience: he neither is married nor has children. He maintains that wives should submit to their husbands and he came up with the analogy of husbands as hammers, driving nails (their wives) into their children (a.k.a. "wood"). Does that sound like the idea of an exemplar of good character? By the way, he is also popular in home-schooling circles.

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