By Rosemary Wells
Charles is as quiet as a mouseand it doesn't bother him one bit. His rodent parents try everything from bribery to scolding, from ballet to football, but Charles resists all of their efforts to make him become more outgoing. It isn't until he is faced with the emergency of an injured babysitter that he springs into action and saves the day, only to revert to his shyness when his parents return.
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
By Marty Rhodes Figley
Shy Charles is a story about shyness. Charles, is stalwart in his “shyness” despite actions of the adults around him. He is perfectly happy keeping company with himself.
The definition of shyness is hard to pinpoint. Perhaps it is a learned behavior, a chosen, rational way of coping. Shyness can also be described as an emotion, an unconscious way of dealing with situations. Shyness has been attributed to both nature and nurture. If we are born shy then it is an integral part of our being. If it is a learned behavior, it might be a result of the child’s cultural background or family environment. Some children only exhibit shyness in certain situations, such as when they have to meet new people, speak in front of a group or go to a new school.
Maturity often fosters change. But sometimes the condition of shyness has duration--it is not a passing phase. Some children never outgrow their shyness, but do learn to cope with it. Maturity often times brings more confidence, both socially and verbally. Tolerance on the part of adults is called for when shyness persists. If shyness is a rational, chosen behavior, then maturity won’t bring change. Sometimes it’s hard for extroverts to realize that shy people don’t need constant interaction with others in order to be fulfilled.
When name calling occurs there is always a question of whether it is ethical. There are many motivations for calling people names. The name caller may feel that his action is for the person’s own good. Name calling by a loved one may occur as a result of frustration; this tactic may be used in an effort to try to motivate the object of the name calling to change a behavior. As in Charles’s case, the name calling by his father appears to cause anger, resentment, and shame.
Sometimes we define duty as the moral obligation to do good. If a person needs help we may feel it is our duty to help that person in need. Generally, we would like to be helped in similar circumstances. Children are capable fulfilling moral obligations. It should be pointed out that if one is a child, and is asked to help, the circumstances involved may preclude action if there is a possibility of victimization. It can be pointed out that it may be preferable for the child to enlist another adult’s help in certain situations.
We use the word “hero” loosely in our society. Sometimes children consider sports figures and movie stars as heroes because they appear to be “larger than life” in their actions. Perhaps some fit the bill. Heroes sometimes perform acts that involve courage and nobility. There is a hero in each of us. Helping another person can sometimes be difficult, especially if one has to overcome feelings of shyness in order to act. Performing one’s duty under difficult conditions can be gratifying, certainly more gratifying than walking away and not helping. Heightened feelings of self-worth and success can result from helping another.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
The Nature of Shyness
Charles’s parents are worried that Charles is so shy.
When Charles hides in the flour sack instead of saying good-bye to Mrs. Belinski, she says, “Good-bye with kisses. Someday when he’s big he’ll kiss me back.”
Shyness and Morality
When Charles doesn’t want to play football his dad calls him names.
Charles’s babysitter, Mrs. Block, falls down the stairs. Charles helps her.
Everyone calls Charles a hero after he helps Mrs. Block.