Teaching From the Inside Out
Donald Hampton
Ed.D. student in Educational Leadership
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


"Right Focus" is a program designed to teach "respect, responsibility, and self-control so that students can meet high academic standards." Lawrence Oliver is developing this program as a component of a charter school proposal in Forsyth County, North Carolina.

Mr. Oliver is a recently retired director of grant programs for the National Science Foundation who came home to Forsyth County to "take it easy." However, after joining St. Peter's Church he soon found himself taking on the challenge of being the executive director of the St. Peter's Child Care Center.

Quick to distance "Right Focus" from the character education movement, Mr. Oliver laments that current methods used to teach character are not working: "Most public schools are currently teaching from the outside in. They manipulate textbooks, teaching methods and tests. That does nothing to touch a child's spirit."

Mr. Oliver relates a personal story to illustrate this concept. He tells of a boy at St. Peter's Child Care Center who hit his teacher. The outraged teacher referred the boy to Mr. Oliver for punishment. Left alone for a few minutes, the boy boldly stole a radio from Mr. Oliver's office. Rather than punish the boy, Oliver investigated the source of the student's behavior problems. Oliver determined that the boy had poor self-esteem related to his poor academic performance, so he worked with the student to see that he mastered his multiplication tables The boy felt so accomplished that he was no longer a discipline problem

Mr. Oliver explains his program as simply teaching "from the inside out." He believes that most self-esteem programs lead to a "dumbed-down" curriculum because they do not include strict academic standards. "Right Focus" will integrate high academic standards with building self-esteem.


Mr. Oliver's program has three main flaws. First, it assumes that teaching character and values will improve academic performance. Secondly, its affiliation with a church that wants to use public funds in tailoring a school to reflect the values of its members and community blurs the lines between church and state. If efforts like Mr. Oliver's succeed, other churches and special interest groups may be encouraged to create their own schools using public funds. Thirdly, the plan does not address how the school will promote diversity. As charter schools grow in popularity, the diversity of public schools may be decreased as many ethnic, religious, and class-specific groups start their own charter schools.

Giunca, M. (1997, Jan. 19). Focused: Educator is trying to teach respect. Winston-Salem Journal, B1.