Self-Interest Intro
(for Non-Christians)
Expanding the Student's Self-Interest Horizon
“As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.”
(Written by Russ Andrews)

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General Background

Educator's Job

As educators, our job is two fold:

  1. To take young minds and bend them to grow in the direction which the wisdom of the ages indicates is best for them and for the society as a whole. This is socialization and character education.
  2. To provide the academic study, knowledge, habits, and practice necessary for a good and productive life.

By definition, we are constrained to work with what we are given (the young student). THERE IS NO OTHER CHOICE!

Some of these students have received very little Personhood training from family members. They are missing significant algorithms needed to develop both academically and socially. We must take these children and bend them towards societal, academic, and character goals.

In this paper the author will discuss the concepts of self-interest, and of a self-made person. Read on to understand these terms in the way the writer uses them.

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What is the Twig?

The beginning of the twig is what we are born with. It is our basic human nature. It is “Self Interest.” There is no escaping this truth. It carries forward through everything we do, all of our life. There is always an underpinning of this truth in everything we do, and everything we believe. It is true from getting our next meal (bottle), to behaving legally, ethically, and morally.

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Self-Interest is Not the Same as Selfish-Interest!

Some people may believe that “self-interest” is negative. Not necessarily so! Unenlightened self interest can certainly be a negative and even an evil force. The educator should realize that he should be showing his student that it is in the student's short term self-interest, and his long term self-interest to developing a quality self. Enlightened self-interest means that which is best for one’s self.

What we need to do is to bend the twig so that the student’s self-interest becomes the same as what is good for him or her, and for society!

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How we Grow Mentally

We develop our minds and our souls by building upon the foundations with which we are born. As we go through life, we build upon that which we already have. We build ourselves up in layers. Mental layers. There is no escaping this fact. It is how we are made.

Every mental layer should be tightly “connected” with the layer below it. If someone (outside of ourselves!) tries to layer on new mental material without connecting it to already existing layers, then the new mental structure is unsound, has weaknesses, and a tendency towards failing.

Remember, self interest is an inescapable fundamental of our nature! It is always there. It can never be destroyed. Ignoring self-interest is to ignore the basic nature of the child. As an educator, to ignore it is to flirt with failure.

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The Mind of Man Abhors a Vacuum

If the teacher tries to suppress self-interest, rather than using it (“bending it”) to produce good people, then the self-interest component can easily be hijacked or subverted by other, bad forces. (It is “up for grabs!”) When that happens (in later life) goodness can well be cast aside. But if the child's self-interest has been tied into good teachings, then the self-interest element is working to “keep the good teachings!” “It is in my self-interest to be good, moral, law abiding, and ethical.” And that is NOT selfish (as defined as excluding the interest of others)!  

A Note to Christian teachers: Christianity which is not connected to and not supported by enlightened self-interest contains an opening for evil!

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The Importance of Self-Interest in Education

In order for education to be effective, the student must realize that learning the material is in his own self interest.

He must become self-invested in making the material his own (internalizing it). This is true of any sort of education, be it English or Good Character. If you dig under the surface of most students, you will find the successful ones recognize this (at some level). They have either been taught it by parents and / or teachers, or have figured it out for themselves!

The unsuccessful ones do not see education as in their own self-interest. In fact, they tend to view education as interfering with their own self interest, and therefore they reject it, and actively resist it.

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After teaching for 11 quarters, I find that too many students lack any sort of real commitment to their education. There is no self-interest in what they are studying. They are “just going through the motions." They are unwilling to do any hard work!

Lack of commitment usually means the person does not see that thing as useful or of significant benefit to themselves. They do not see a “self-interest.” That is just common sense.

I suspect that at least a significant part of the reason is they have not received the detailed and specific attention from family that would impart enlightened self-interest in education.

I have limited knowledge of classroom practices at my school. I hesitate to make any statement about the motivational role played by members of its staff, except to state that it appears to have not been effective enough. Only about 1/3 of the children seemed committed to their own education. That is intolerable!

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About Learning Disabilities

If self-interest is present, then even learning disabilities may be overcome. Its like saying ... “This stuff is really important to me! It may take a lot of effort, but I want to make that effort. To me it will be worth the effort!”

If self-interest is not present, then learning disabilities very likely will become an excuse for not doing well. --- That is so important I am going to repeat it.

If self-interest is not present, then learning disabilities very likely will become an excuse for not doing well.

Its like saying ... “It is not in my (perceived) self interest, and I don’t want to go to all the bother it takes to learn.” I had far too many students who demonstrated this attitude. 

The Self-Made Person
(No, it is not what you think it is!)
(Written by Russ Andrews)

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The Self-Made Idea

This idea needs some explanation, especially as the writer has used it. In the final analysis, the concept of the “Self-made” person, and the person of high quality and high character are NOT contradictory. They are quite complimentary!

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The Mythical Self-Made Person

When we hear that a person is a “self-made” man or woman, we usually think that means they have been able by the shear power of their person to “make things happen” in order to reach some goal of power, wealth, or influence. An ability to control the situation, to bend its forces to do one’s own will. (“Having succeeded in life unaided.” ... The Random House College Dictionary) The writer feels very strongly that such a person has never existed, and can never exist. That (dictionary) definition is pure myth. The sort of person it is usually applied to has first created himself using the inputs of many other people as a starting point. That creation of self can result in a good person, or in an immoral person.

The choice of the phase “self made” was probably a poor one, as it seems to carry negative baggage. The writer does not know what would be a better short and catchy phrase that might be substituted. He is open to suggestions.

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Will the 'Real' Self Made Person Stand Up?”

The self-made person the writer has in mind is one who has been led by his teachers to choose good goals. Goals which are truly based on the student’s best self-interest. This teaching task is what the writer calls

Expanding the Student’s Self-Interest Horizon.”

Next, the teacher needs to guide the student to learning, accepting, and applying a set of Life-Rules he will use to to reach his Life-Goals.

The self-made person’s Life-Goals and Life-Rules have not been established as a result of some random lottery of items unconsciously absorbed from the wide range of inputs thrust upon the student from every conceivable source. He has consciously chosen those that are good for him. That is what self-made means!

The self-made person knows what his Life-Goals are, and how to reach them. It is at this point his self-interest horizon should be expanded (with the help of teachers and family) to include his education!

He is not easily distracted from his quest. It is not possible to dangle some other goal in front of him to pull him off his course. He is not susceptible to peer pressure. He knows what are his own Self-Interests, they are good, and he knows they will benefit him. He can sort out the stuff that comes his way, discarding the bad and negative, and taking in what is good and of benefit to him. (With the help of positive guidance from teachers, he is “self-making.”)

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The Alternative to being Self Made

What happens if the student is not led to make himself into a quality person by choosing good Life-Goals and good Life-Rules?

Again, nature abhors a vacuum. The student will unconsciously acquire Life-Goals and Life-Rules. These will be based upon the widely varied and often immoral or negative Goals and Rules learned unconsciously from entertainment, movies, music, advertising, misguided adults, and peers.

Life-Goals and Life-Rules operate in the background (beneath our conscious RADAR.) Unless there has been a meaningful effort to be self-made, we are usually not aware of these goals and rules.

Consider: A person's future life is dramatically controlled by their Life-Goals, and the Life-Rules they live by. Doesn't it just make very good sense that they should NOT be left to chance?

Wouldn't it be very much better to guide children to embrace and accept as their own, good Life-Goals and good Life-Rules? That is what the personhood curriculum tries to do.

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How do Teachers Help the Student Make Himself into Someone of High Quality?

What should be done is to establish a good set of Life-Goals and Life-Rules as being in the student's own enlightened Self-Interest? Life-Goals and Life-Rules have to be recognized by him as in the student’s self-interest, or they will not be internalized. To start, they need to be general, but well supported with specific examples. Once taken in and internalized, the student is beginning to be self actualizing, in the best possible sense.

Because it is not happening elsewhere in many children's lives, educators MUST assume the responsibility of teaching these internal goals and rules, and establishing them to be in the child’s own self-interest. In the early years we are actively laying the foundation to later help the student grow towards a strong and positive character. We can instill good morals and ethics as Life-Goals. If a person has a strong Personhood, they are much better able to withstand the temptations of the media, advertising, and peer pressures around them.

(If teachers are doing the work the writer describes, he would welcome and enjoy hearing from you! Send Email.)

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Who's Goals, Morals, & Ethics?

Some people mount an argument which says we can't teach morals or ethics because we cannot trust other people to decide what those morals and ethics will be for our children. Let us look at the logical extension of that idea.

If morals and ethics are not taught in a school, then many of today's children will grow up to be amoral and unethical. This will happen because their parents and family will not teach them. Many of the other influences present today will push them towards negative results.

Societies advance because knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors are passed down generation to generation. This includes ethics and morality.

IF: _____ This chain is broken, as is now too often the case,
THEN: __ That society will spiral downward towards its own self destruction.

In the relay race called "The Generations,"

IF: ______The baton of "Morals & Ethics" is dropped,
THEN: __ The race is lost!

The evidence is there. It is happening now. Just look at the corporate moral and ethics failures taking place over the last decade.

Some people even go so far as to assert that the choices should be made some time in the future, and left to the child to make those choices!

The idea is both ridiculous and dangerous. It doesn't even bother to pretend that parents will teach morals and ethics. It assumes that the children of each generation will be able to establish in a very few short years the same wisdom which has taken mankind thousands of years to collectively generate! Even if various alternative moral and ethical positions are taught with equal footing, children are usually not perceptive enough nor wise enough to make a good choice. That task would be greatly confounded by the immoral and unethical forces at play in the advertising and entertainment businesses. IT CANNOT BE DONE.

I suspect that this idea is held by people who chafe at the standards imposed upon them by morals and ethics. It is their unrecognized agenda to let people do whatever they please, because that is what they would want for themselves!

Given the alternatives of formal teaching in school, vs. no teaching at all, this author would select formal teaching of character, morals, and ethics. Let the society move forward by slow and careful changes made in its systems, rather than destroy them and slide backwards at an ever accelerating rate.

If I am not Politically Correct, that's OK. I'd rather that, than see our society destroyed.

NOTE: Various public school communities have been able to collectively establish a core of character traits that are acceptable. Results have been good!

"Any road will get you there when you don't know where you are going."

(The musical group "Go Fish.")

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