In youth groups, classrooms, and after-school clubs across the country, dedicated educators are using Cowboy Ethics and our Finding the Hero Within youth program as inspiration for developing activities of their own. The Glenrock Independent and Douglas Budget recently profiled one such program in action in Glenrock, Wyoming. You can see the article here and we have reposted it below.
This is one more great example of the way youth programs focused on values and ethics can not only inspire young people, but also engage members of the larger community in reflecting on the principles that guide their day-to-day actions. When people take the time to think about what they want to stand for, the tough choices in life become much easier. Your code is like your compass–it will point you in the right direction every time.
The Cowboy Way
April 4, 2012
“Live each day with courage. Take pride in your work. Always finish what you start. Do what has to be done. Be tough, but fair. When you make a promise, keep it. Ride for the brand. Talk less and say more. Remember that some things aren’t for sale. Know where to draw the line.”
This is the Code of the West, as presented by James Owen, author of Cowboy Ethics. In the beginning of the spring semester at the Glenrock High School, teachers began challenging students to “cowboy up” through an innovative character building program based on the principles of the Code of the West. On April 2, those same students invited their parents and the public into the classrooms, and proceeded to teach the very same to them. In three demonstrations, students focused on the last of the codes of the west: Ride for the brand; Talk less and say more; and Remember that some things aren’t for sale.
“I live in Casper, but when I’m here I see a lot of cars have ‘Herder Pride,’ ‘Herder Mom,’ ‘Herder Dad.’ That’s a brand that people in Glenrock have come to live by,” Chris Daniels said during a demonstration. “It’s like troops coming back who are from Wyoming all have the bucking bronc, because that’s how they learn to identify themselves. That same principle applies, are you going to slander them when you see that brand?”
By using brand-name logos, the students demonstrated how everybody can relate to a brand, it’s recognizable and it sets you in a specific clique, or group. In cowboy ethics, you stay true to that brand and group.
The students explained that riding for the brand isn’t simply about following the crowd or going with the flow. It doesn’t mean giving blind and unquestioned allegiance to someone.
“Just because you represent a brand doesn’t mean you have to stay with it for life,” Wayne Walcott said. “You can change your brand, for better or worse.”
The students also demonstrated how words can be cheap, but actions scream louder than any war cry. In a silent demonstration, students taught their elders what it means to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. In another demonstration participants were shown how there are things that cannot be categorized with material possessions. Eventually, everyone would sell their home for a price, however other traits such as honor, dignity, courage and honesty should never be sold for any price. Some things are just too precious to label with a price tag, and those are the things that shape our very character and being.
The Code of the West first truly became relevant to the teachers and students in Wyoming, when on March 10, 2010, former Gov. Dave Freudenthal signed Senate File 51 into law, making the Code of the West the official state code of Wyoming.
Cowboys across the west, especially in Wyoming, have been practicing these principles for generations. More content to make a deal on a handshake and a look in the eye, than shuffle through piles of pesky paperwork.
Even Wyoming Governor Matt Mead got in on the discussion of the future of the code in Wyoming.
“The principles that have defined Wyoming and our citizens through history are positive ones,” Mead said. “We are hardworking, friendly and honest people. We are also fiscally conservative and independent. I am proud of what makes us uniquely Western.
“I believe that the foundation was in place before anyone put the code on paper, and the principles have served us well in the past and will continue to serve us well in the future. I am honored to be the Governor of Wyoming, because of the wonderful people here and because of the leaders who have gone before and established a legacy of doing what is best for our state and leaving it a better place for our children.”
Following the demonstrations, with the thoughts of morals and values fresh on their minds, participants heard Sen. Jim Anderson tell just how and why the code made it to legislation in the first place. As well as why it was, and still is, so important to him personally that this code thrive in our students beginning at home with the parents.
“Wyoming is the only state that has this as law,” Anderson said. “There’s two things that I’ve done since I’ve been in the legislation that have the most significance to me. The first one is the Hathaway Scholarship program, that makes a difference. This one is right along side that, it has the potential of the Hathaway but it’s going to take longer. When you do life changing things that change your very culture in this high school, when you learn these more cognitive things you make an internalization by which you can apply them with passion and courage and conviction. That’s going to take some time.
“Wyoming is engaged in a real effort to reform and improve education across the board. In order to be successful at these kinds of things we need to engage the parents, they have to devote as much to this as the students do. I’m so pleased that this is happening in Glenrock. This will be life changing.”