Long, long ago, in a kingdom called Earth, a group of mighty princes gathered to decide how they could improve life in the kingdom. One proffered one idea, a second another, etc. They discussed each, noting its merits, but laid them all aside.
They wanted something bigger – better.
“I’ve got it!” A prince jumped to his feet. “We must send every child on a long journey. We will call it Character Education and we will make teachers do the driving. Groups of teachers can draw up the map, and we will return some of their tax money to pay for the journey.”
“Splendid! Marvelous! That will make life better in the kingdom!” The princes beamed and shook hands all around. “We’ll do it immediately,” they said.
From a far corner, a very young prince spoke. “How long will the journey be, and where will it end, sirs?” His face flushed as he dared to question the older, wiser princes.
A moment of silence thickened the air.
“Ahem! Well, it shall be as long as it needs to be,” replied one prince, and the others nodded their heads knowingly.
“You will excuse me, sir,” ventured the young prince again, “but where will this journey end?”
“Why, at its end, of course.” The old prince scowled briefly, and then sent a huge smile around the circle. “It is settled then,” he said. “We will tell the kingdom’s teachers in the morning.”
And so it was.
The princes returned a bit of tax money to the teachers; the teachers met in committees and created maps; and the students’ journey began.
Now the journey was a strange one, for although given the same map, the teachers followed different routes.
Some drove through dusty, parched desert painted in dull browns, and sad faces gazed glumly at the sunburned land.
Others took an icy course over snowy, slippery mountains of white, and sullen faces stared rebelliously at the frozen land.
A few drove through lush, green glades sheltering young animals among soft, yellow wildflowers, and eager voices begged to linger in the sweet land.
The teachers continued to drive, however, each on the chosen route.
A second strange thing about this journey was that the maps showed no destination.
The teachers who created them had discussed where the journey would end, but nobody knew. The instructions from the princes said only that the journey must begin at once, and must continue through the years.
Since not one teacher knew what the destination was, they continued onward, day after day, week after week, month after month, simply driving the students on the journey called Character Education.
By and by, the students became weary of traveling. Some slid down in their seats and closed their eyes, dozing fitfully. Some kicked the back of the drivers’ seats, while others argued and fought.
The teachers tried to distract from this behavior by pointing out the scenery, but the students became crankier.
Finally, on a gray, sullen day, when all of the courses were obscured by a deep fog, a fretful young voice called out, “Are we there yet?”
“Yeah, are we there yet? Are we there yet?” Voice after voice joined the chorus. “When will we get there?”
The teachers could not answer, for although they were driving the Character Education courses, they had no firm destination in mind.
“The princes have told us to journey,” said most of the teachers, “and that’s all we know.”
The students traveling with such teachers revolted, and tried to escape the journey. Alas, they could not, and so they wandered on, year after year, until they became adults. Then they left the teachers, weary and angry.
The students traveling with the few wise teachers fared differently.
These few teachers paused. They came together to evaluate the Character Education journey. They gave serious attention to its lack of destination.
“The prince had a reason,” said Mr. Purposeful, “for telling us to go on this journey, and that reason was to make kingdom life better. The destination must be a better life.”
“Better in what way?” Ms. Sincerity asked.
“Better in character, I suppose.”
“So when students’ character is better, we will be at our destination?” The teacher who asked wrinkled her forehead.
“Better is not on the map,” said Mr. Discernment. He pointed. “There is a road named Better, but no destination.”
“Look.” Ms. Diligence spoke softly.
“Virtue. That’s our destination. We haven’t driven the course well enough if students reach only Better. We must drive them to Virtue – conformity to a standard of right.”
The wise teachers returned to their vehicles, and applying excellence to their driving, they all conveyed their students safely to Virtue.
The princes praised the wise teachers, the students thanked them for the safe journey, and life was better in that part of the kingdom – much better. Life was, in fact, virtuous!