Aunt Bette's passions
included the mentor program and "the trenches"; i.e.,
wherein teachers would create, usually at their own expense, reusable values-themed classroom displays like to those modeled
by her classroom and book.
What an experience it must have been to
have had Bette Pinkerton for a school teacher. As her nephew, from my childhood to
early adulthood, I only knew her as the aunt with whom I was lucky
enough to occasionally spend an entire day or weekend, including some very late nights, discussing
what I would later formally identify as Self-Image and Reason.
Over the 2004
Thanksgiving holiday, after ten years of estrangement due to a
single philosophic disagreement, Aunt Bette and I agreed to
disagree (as she originally suggested), forgave the lost
years with a kiss and a hug, caught up over lunch, then resumed comparing notes as ardently
as before. I was surprised by how quickly we cut to the chase.
The first I knew of CHARACTER EDUCATION ACROSS THE
CURRICULUM was one month later, on the evening of Boxing
Day, when she presented me with a copy of the culmination of her life's
work. I cannot remember if her objective was to publish it formally,
just make copies for
the school district or Castle View, or what.
But I do remember that she wanted it published and she
wanted new teachers to have access to her work. Little
did I know that, one month later, I would be culling through her
book looking for material to use in my tribute to her at her funeral.
At the time of Aunt
Bette's death, not only did the garage contain two four-drawer
filled with what was left of the teacher support and classroom handout materials she had not given away when she retired; all
carefully labeled, arranged by subject, and filed; but also a cupboard that contained a box labeled "Mentor, Character Ed. Book"
(filled with the best of the
filing cabinet materials and her book master), and a stack of thirty-one shrink-wrapped
copies of the book itself.
The fact that Aunt Bette
combined her personal agenda with her lesson plan is not unique.
Such methods have been used throughout history.
The fact that Aunt Bette
covered nearly every inch of her classroom; furniture, walls, doors,
ceiling, and the students themselves; with values-based instructional displays
is not unique. Such methods have also been used throughout history.
The fact that Aunt
Bette's values constituted a collection of some of the
highest-minded philosophies from the whole of human existence is not
unique. After all, is not the nature of humanity's advancement
to compile the detection,
and increase the breadth and depth, of cogent
However, if the notion
that people are defined, not by their words, but by their actions is
true, then perhaps we can say that what was unique was the fact that
Bette established and maintained a profoundly high level of
consistency between her unusually well-defined, if not fully
examined, Honor Code and her
Add to that the fact
that her classroom
was not just a classroom, it was a superbly equipped art studio. Her
renderings were human beings, and her method was to create a vacuum
using the power of example into which those around her were
compelled to grow. Ultimately, what made Bette Pinkerton unique was the
fact that she made an art form out of augmenting
the power of example, attempted to apply
her example to both the individual and the common wheel for the
individual and common good, and was, by all accounts, particularly
Bette's classroom was,
as is this book, her catalogue of most of her highest-prized values. Bette's classroom was,
as is this book, her definition of her best character. And
yet Bette's nature was, as is ours, undeniably human. Her values catalogue was not
complete, and her best character was not wholly consistent; as dramatically evidenced by the fact that she was not wearing her seat
belt when she needed it most. Nevertheless, this volume of expressed values and
self-definition is undeniably and remarkably compelling.
I have taken the liberty
of adding to Aunt Bette's book two additional titles which constitute
a Preface. I have also added the cross-reference links in the table of
contents. Please let me know as you notice relationships I have missed.
The rest of CHARACTER EDUCATION ACROSS THE CURRICULUM is as
Aunt Bette presented it to me, and as are still sealed in thirty-one
bundles in a cupboard in the garage.
After our astounding reunion, I cannot convey the disappointment I still feel
from the loss of what should have been another twenty years-plus of Aunt
Bette's company. Conversely, living with Uncle Dale this past year,
and rendering to the internet Aunt Bette's book, a tribute
to her character and her power of selection, has
been an honor and a blessing.
May we, this book's readers,
recognize and share the value of Bette Pinkerton's vision.
May we, this world's
travelers, keep our seatbelts fastened whenever our vehicle is in
motion. (Sounds silly, doesn't it?)
Friday, 2006 January 13