The duck test, attributed to James Whitcomb Riley, says:
“When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.”
When testing for reality in a person, it is good to see if he or she not only “quacks” the right words, but acts in accordance with those words.
We who work to build character need to apply the duck test to character. We need to see if each bird is really a “character duck.”
Is it a duck – that image you see in the mirror? You need to apply the duck test.
Is it a duck – that student you teach in school or at home? You need to apply every part of the duck test to the “birds” you are teaching.
It is wonderful when children and teens learn the meaning of a character trait so well that they can speak or write a clear, complete definition. It is rewarding when they can give examples of how that trait is exercised in daily life. It can be exciting to see them portray the trait accurately in role-playing situations.
All of those, however, are simply occasions for “quacking” like character ducks. The test is whether or not those children or teenagers are learning to “walk” and “swim” like character ducks.
All too often, we reward academic achievement in character education class as character itself. We give out certificates showing that John and Mary have achieved responsibility, when they really have achieved nothing beyond mental knowledge regarding responsibility. We give out gifts to recognize that an entire class of children has learned honesty, but they have only learned to “quack” properly about honesty. They are still not walking and swimming honesty.
Each of the Character-in-Action® character education programs makes it easy and interesting to learn the meaning of character. Exciting stories, worksheets, activities, tests, etc. ensure accurate knowledge about character.
If we stop before that knowledge leads to action, however, a “character duck” is not hatched.
Look hard. Are you hatching ducks or some other kind of bird?