John Winthrop Wright founded The School for Ethical Education (SEE) in 1995 as a 501(c)(3) school. Mr. Wright was also the chairman and CEO of
Wright Investors’ Service, a privately held, international investment management and advisory firm currently located in Milford, Connecticut. Mr. Wright’s timely founding of SEE before his passing in 1996 coincides with the education reform movement’s recognition of positive student character as critical to the success of any academic program. Positive character development is integrated into the goals of all SEE activities. Mr. Wright’s vision for school improvement focused on expanding opportunities for teachers and students to learn how ethics in action creates character. This phrase became the school’s motto and recognizes the power of positive ethics in the creation of character. The core ethical concepts Mr. Wright desired to promote include: fairness, respect, responsibility, caring, justice, honesty, courtesy, citizenship, and the principles of the Golden Rule. SEE currently provides programs, courses and workshops for teachers, parents, and students to advance ethical behavior in schools and communities.
|John Winthrop Wright founder of The School for Ethical Education
It should be no surprise that when communities are ethical and healthy, success in school for youth in those communities increases and violence and anti-social activity decreases. Researchers such as Merton Strommen, author of
Five Cries of Youth, and Peter Benson of The Search Institute come to the same conclusion: when communities provide positive role models inside and outside families, high expectations for children and youth, clear responsibilities and boundaries, then youth are more successful and become involved in less risk-taking behavior.
One might conclude that we have forgotten the connection between the individual and community as a culture. In the absence of a vision for community, we fail to see the importance of character. MacIntyre argues that the self has to find its moral identity in and through its membership in communities. Without cultural awareness of community, we cannot develop the virtues our communities need.
MacIntyre and sociologist Robert Bellah observe that Americans, without a sense of community, have lost a vision for a shared ethical responsibility and connections with the common good. Bellah and his co-researchers also identify historical traditions and sources of community formation. One of these sources is John Winthrop, the first governor of the colony of Massachusetts. Onboard the Arabella in 1630, John Winthrop wrote of his hopes and dreams for the new colony he was leading and the life he wished for the settlers. Winthrop articulated this ‘life’ to mean life in the community. It was his belief that life in the community, with a clear requirement for personal character, was essential. Winthrop added justice, mercy, and love to personal character as foundational for successful communities. The first governor outlined four practical steps to achieve such a community.
- The first step was to see a vision of community. Winthrop noted that everyone should see themselves living within a community, that we ought to account ourselves knit together.
- The second step recognized the importance of describing the common good. Winthrop defined the common good to include a valuing of what each individual adds to the community.
- The third step Winthrop suggested focused on what works to improve our lives. It was assumed that what constitutes the good to improve my life would not be radically different from the good to improve another individual or the community life.
- The last step Winthrop described was the principle to bear one another’s burdens. By practicing these steps, Winthrop believed that the settlers could create a City Upon a Hill, which would promote individual and community success.
Winthrop’s writings in 1630 are full of hope and promise and are a foundational proclamation for a responsible and caring community. It admonishes us and points out the rocks of individualism on which we, over 375 years later, find ourselves shipwrecked. The words of John Winthrop remind us where the Puritan settlers were going and where we can go today. Today, John Winthrop Wright, as a descendent of John Winthrop, has provided us the resources to continue the important task of community building to promote ethical behavior and develop positive character.
The School for Ethical Education continues the vision to teach strategies to put ethics in action. We encourage learning experiences that foster positive character and advance responsible and caring communities. John Winthrop’s strategies for community success are as relevant to schools and communities today as they were in 1630. The School for Ethical Education seeks others concerned with this vision and in agreement with our strategies to join us in creating ethical communities for the 21st century.
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