Character Counts! focuses on ethical values, good decisions <br><br>
Responsible, caring, respectful, trustworthy — These are traits we want to see in our children. We want them to contribute to their communities in positive ways. We want them to be people of good character.
The distance between our hopes and reality, however, is daunting. Every year in Arizona, 32,000 children drop out of school, 73,000 children are arrested and 3,300 babies are born to teen mothers. Nationally, 70 percent of high school students say they hit someone in anger within the last 12 months; 74 percent report having cheated; 38 percent stole; 93 percent lied to their parents; 83 percent lied to their teachers; and 37 percent say they would lie to get a job. We want to change these statistics! There is something we can do.
Character can be taught. Aristotle said that character is the sum of a person’s habits. We certainly can help our children develop good habits. Character Counts! is a national initiative to help children learn to make good decisions. It focuses on the universal ethical values of trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
What can we do to help our children develop good character? The Josephson Institute of Ethics suggests the TEAM approach: Teach, Enforce, Advocate and Model. The most important of these is Model. According to the Search Institute, only 21 percent of teens say they have heroes. Only 16 percent name a parent as someone they look up to.
Character building should begin at home. Our children know we are not perfect, but it is important that they see us trying to be better. Children are watching us. Let them see us struggling with issues, making decisions in the light of our best understanding of ethical principles. Let’s find time to talk with them about ethical issues that come up in our daily lives. But being a person of good character means more than talking the talk. If we want our children to be honest, we need to be honest. If we want our children to be respectful, we need to be respectful.
Parents can’t do it alone. Our community needs to talk the same language. If you are a community or business leader, let children see you modeling and advocating good character. Let people know that character counts in your business or organization.
Ninety-five percent of people surveyed nationally want character education to be addressed in schools. Parents, teachers and community leaders in Coconino County are eager for an initiative like Character Counts!, which is not ethnically, religiously or politically biased, to help students focus on ethical decision making. Through the efforts of the Coconino County Schools office, 15 schools are currently implementing Character Counts! in their efforts to improve school performance and reduce truancies, suspensions, disciplinary problems and police referrals.
Perhaps if children see parents, teachers, and community members all advocating for good character, they will begin to understand that ethical decision making is important.
Contact Lana Malone at 928-779-6698 if you, your business or organization would like to be involved in the Character Counts! initiative. Additional information can be found at www.charactercounts.org.
(Lana Malone is the Character Counts Project Director at Coconino County Schools.)