creating schools and communities of character
                                                                                    July/August 2010
An electronic newsletter to help make sure character counts!

For Character Web Site

CHARACTER COUNTS! and the Six Pillars of Character are service marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.  For more information about training opportunities and resources available to assist schools and communities in the integration of a character education initiative, check out their web site at: or call them at 1-800-711-2670.


Take a Minute For Character

Information You Can Use

Lesson Plan





On the wall in my office is a large framed picture of a young blond-haired boy standing on a beach peering into the light blue water.  The title of the picture is Priorities.  At the bottom of this striking portrait is a saying “A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” 


As educators, we have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children.  However, the opportunity to impact the lives of children goes beyond our role as a teacher or administrator.  No matter what we do, we have a responsibility to the next generation.  Whether we are a parent, grandparent, business owner or community leader, we must demonstrate that we care about children.


You may be saying this is rather obvious.  Few adults in our society go around admitting a dislike for children.  However, a national survey by Public Agenda, a research firm, portrays a different picture.  Two thirds of the adults surveyed for “Kids these Days: What Americans really think about the next generation,” called teens rude, wild and irresponsible.  Nearly half called younger children spoiled.  Only thirty seven percent of adults said, they believe the country will be improved by today’s children. Americans are convinced that adolescences face a crisis – not in an economic or physical well-being, but in their values and morals.


I would hope that in your community these statistics would not hold true.  If you have worked to teach students not only to be smart but good, I would like to think that the people in your community may see things differently.  I am convinced that children and young people learn best when they also learn the “Six Pillars of Character”:  Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship.  Together, we can commit to helping our children be in a position where they will be our best hope for the future.


Gary Smit



·        No vacation for bad behavior - A new report from Connecticut Voices for Children shows that the number of student suspensions has declined statewide, from 7.1 percent in 2006-07 to 5.4 percent in 2008-09, even before a new state law takes effect this summer that aims to reduce out-of-school suspensions, The Hartford Courant reports. Experts believe the new law, one of the first of its kind in the country, has made schools more aware of the disadvantages for students who miss school, and has prompted administrators to find other ways to discipline students and prevent bad behavior. Legislators passed the law after hearing that Connecticut schoolchildren lost more than 250,000 school days due to suspensions in the 2006–07 school year. Kindergarteners, alone, lost 2,000 days. "The data that we saw was just shocking. I mean, kindergarteners getting out-of-school suspensions?" said state Rep. Andrew Fleischmann. "I talked to colleagues from some of these areas and found children were being sent home for minor infractions of the school uniform policy. The goal of the law is to correct students' behaviors while keeping kids in school." Education experts say that students often view out-of-school suspensions as a "vacation," and lost school time disrupts schoolwork, contributing to the achievement gap, drop-out rates, and delinquency.
Read more:,0,7920650.story


·        The cost of excessive discipline - Recently, testimony from three public hearings in Massachusetts suggested that excessive disciplinary action for non-violent offenses like tardiness and truancy exacerbated the dropout crisis. A new Rennie Center review of discipline practices in the state and nationally looks at these discipline policies, the laws that govern them, and research on the effects of disciplinary removal. The brief describes overall trends in disciplinary removal (suspensions and expulsions) of Massachusetts students, school year 2005-2006 through 2008-2009, and findings from a more in-depth analysis of discipline data from the 2007-2008 years. Key findings include that for serious infractions -- illegal substances, violence, and criminal activities -- the most common reason for disciplinary removal is violence. Out-of-school suspension is the most frequently used form of disciplinary removal, and the number of disciplinary removals peaks at 9th grade and declines in 10th through 12th grade. Particular segments (low-income, special education, male, black, Hispanic) of the student population are removed at disproportionately high rates. The brief highlights essential questions that must be answered to fully understand how discipline policies are being carried out, and to tease out the relationship between disciplinary removal, the achievement gap, and dropping out of public schools in Massachusetts. 
See the report:


·        You can find Character Education Teaching Guides for use in an elementary school classroom that includes discussion questions, writing assignments, and student activities at:


·        University of San Diego Specialist Certificate in Character Development - A Specialist Certificate in Character Development is offered by the Character Development Center at the University of San Diego's School of Education and Leadership Sciences. All courses are online and available for 3 professional development units. For more information call: (619) 260-2250, e-mail: or visit us online:




Universal Suffrage – Fairness

OVERVIEW: The teacher conducts a vote on who will get dismissed from class first, boys or girls, the catch being that the girls can’t vote. Students then write an essay on the fairness of a democracy in which voting rights are restricted based on gender (or race).






Students today think the 1980s are ancient history, so 1919 — the year women gained the right to vote in the United States — seems like a world away, and many girls take it for granted that they have the same rights as boys. Tell students, You are going to get to vote today on who will get dismissed from class first, the boys or the girls. But we are going to pretend that it’s 1910.

That means women don’t have the right to vote yet. So boys, that means it’s all up to you. Raise your hand if you think the girls should be dismissed first. [Tally votes.] OK, now raise your hand if you think boys should be dismissed first. [Tally votes.] Chances are, the boys will win. Explain to students that you did this to show that a so-called “democracy” is unfair if not everyone has the right to vote. Emphasize that women gained suffrage a very short time ago, and African-Americans even more recently. (Although technically black males could vote after the 15th Amendment of 1870, in reality tactics like poll taxes and literacy tests prevented it until the Voting Rights Act of 1965.) Have students write a one-page essay about the fairness of a democracy in which the government restricts voting rights based on gender (or race).





Let's face it, it's not easy to become a person of character. It takes a good heart, but it also requires wisdom to know right from wrong and the discipline to do right even when it's costly, inconvenient or difficult.  

Becoming a person of character is a lifelong quest to be better.  

A person of character values honesty and integrity and pays whatever price is needed to be worthy of trust, earning the pride of family and friends and self-respect.  

A person of character plays fair even when others don't and values no achievement unless it was attained with honor.  

A person of character has strong convictions, yet avoids self-righteousness.  

A person of character believes in the inherent dignity of all people and treats everyone with respect, even those whose ideas and ideologies evoke strong disagreement.  

A person of character deals with criticism constructively and is self-confident enough to take good advice, admit and learn from mistakes, feel and express genuine remorse and apologize graciously.  

A person of character knows what's important, sacrifices the now for later, is in control of attitudes and actions, overcomes negative impulses and makes the best of every situation.  

A person of character willingly faces fears and tackles unpleasant tasks.  

A person of character is consistently and self-consciously kind and empathetic, giving generously without concern for reward.  

A person of character feels and expresses gratitude freely and frequently.  

A person of character is not defeated by failure or dissuaded by disappointment.  

A person of character seeks true happiness in living a life of purpose and meaning, placing a higher value on significance than success.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.