Generations of Staples students from the mid-1970s through early ’90s remember Bob Selverstone’s Values Clarification course.
It earned them 1/4 credit — but what they took away was far more important. In small groups — then together in a large one — students talked, thought and wrote about what they believed. And why.
Faculty and parents joined the classes. Clergy came too. The Values class — and its follow-up, Human Sexuality — were some of the most meaningful, even life-changing, parts of Staples students’ educations.
“Personal growth is so important,” Selverstone — who has spent 35 years as a psychologist in private practice in Westport, and was named an Outstanding Educator by Planned Parenthood — says. He is proud that, while teaching part-time at Staples, his courses may have been the only ones of their kind in an American public high school.
If the Values Clarification course sounds like something you wished you’d taken, you’re in luck. This March, Selverstone will offer them through Continuing Education.
“What Do You Stand For? … And What Won’t You Stand For?” is the name of his offering.
“The roads you take — and those you forgo — reflect your value,” Selverstone says. “Which path do you choose? Sometimes the decision isn’t so easy.”
He describes an exercise he uses with groups ranging from 8th graders to summer camp staffs. The scenario involves an engaged couple, a raging river, and sex. Plus concepts like friendship, honesty and purity.
Though everyone in a class may look homogeneous, when they discuss the scenario they realize their beliefs may be very different. Then the talk turns to ideas like: Who has the “proper” values? And how do we live those values?
“Self-awareness is the most important part of nearly everything we do,” Selverstone says. He is a master at helping even the least self-aware people start to think about what matters to them.
As a Staples student 30 years ago, Westport’s new director of continuing education Ellen Israel took Selverstone’s Values Clarification course. Recently, she invited him to teach it again.
“I love doing this stuff,” the energetic, ever-smiling Selverstone says. “I love the immediate feedback. And I love that the potential for positive impact is so huge.”
Adults of any age — “20 to 80,” he says — are welcome.
“It’s not therapy,” he notes. “But it is therapeutic. Everyone should spend some time thinking about ideas they may never have consciously thought of.”
As for Selverstone, he’s thought often of the groundbreaking classes he taught in high school.
“Staples has always been a delightful place,” he says. “Now I’ve got a wonderful chance to go back there — and give back.”
(“What Do You Stand For? … And What Won’t You Stand For?”) will be taught on 4 consecutive Thursdays, from March 10-31, 7-9 p.m. For more information, click on www.westportcontinuinged.com or call 203-341-1209.)