creating schools and communities of character
An electronic newsletter to help make sure character counts!
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:
www.charactercounts.org or call
them at 1-800-711-2670.
IN THIS ISSUE…
Information You Can Use
Student Context, Student Attitudes and Behavior and Acadmic Achievement
Self-Discipline May Beat Smarts As Keys to Success
The Lesson Spot - Using Quotations
Commentary By Michael Josephson
TAKE A MINUTE FOR CHARACTER
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
INFORMATION YOU CAN USE
- KIDS LEARN RIGHTS COME WITH RESPONSIBILITIES - Students at Fairview
Elementary School in Modesto, Calif., thought the ravioli served at
lunch tasted so yucky that they circulated petitions to get it off the
menu -- and won. Lesson learned: Kids sometimes do get to pick what they
eat. At Nursery Road Elementary School in Columbia, S.C., students asked
for a longer recess. But Principal Mary Kennerly recalled that when she
explained that the school day would have to be extended to meet state
mandates, "the kids said, 'Never mind.' " Lesson learned: Things that
look simple aren't always so, and with rights come responsibilities. A
small but growing number of schools has begun to inculcate students in
the fundamentals of democratic freedom by teaching and practicing the
principles of the First Amendment. Administrators and students say such
education is imperative amid concern about a lack of adequate civic
education in many U.S. schools and at a time when the publication of
newspaper cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad has sparked
riots abroad and a debate over free speech.
- MINIMIZING CONFLICT, MAXIMIZING COLLABORATION: PRINCIPALS & SCHOOL
COUNSELORS - Collaboration among school personnel is seen as an
essential tool for improving services to students. While sharing a
common interest in serving students, principals and school counselors
often approach student concerns from different points-of-view based on
their preparation and philosophical orientation. These varied
perspectives may lead to conflict, and ineffective use of time and
energy for both principals and counselors. It is essential, therefore,
that all school personnel work more collaboratively to serve students.
Despite differences in professional preparation and orientation, there
is ample evidence that collaboration among principals and counselors
results in more effective programs and services that positively impact
student academic, personal, and social growth. In this article,
Elizabeth Broughton outlines strategies for school principals and
counselors to use in understanding and appreciating their differing
roles and responsibilities, and a set of recommendations that build
collaboration, trust and communication to support the success of
- LOVING CHILDREN: A DESIGN PROBLEM - We claim to love our children,
and David Orr believes that most of us do. But we have, sheep like,
acquiesced in the design of a society that dilutes the expression of
genuine love. The result is a growing mistrust of our children that
easily turns to fear and dislike. In a recent survey, for example, only
one-third of adults believed that today's young people "will eventually
make this country a better place." Instead, we find them "rude" and
"irresponsible." And often they are. We find them overly materialistic
and unconcerned about politics, values, and improving society. And many
are too materialistic and detached from large issues. Not infrequently
they are verbally and physically violent, fully adapted to a society
that is saturated with drugs and violence. A few kill and rape other
children. Why are the very children that we profess to cherish becoming
less than likable and sometimes less than human? Orr argues that answers
can be found in the sharp divide imposed between the hyper-consumerism
of the post-modern world and the needs of children for extended
nurturing, mentoring, and imagining. It's the economy that we love, not
our children. The symptoms are all around us. We spend 40% less time
with our children than we did in 1965. We spend, on average, 6 hours per
week shopping, but only 40 minutes playing with our children. It can no
longer be taken for granted that this civilization can pass on its
highest values to enough of its children to survive. Without intending
to do so, we have created a society that cannot love its children,
indeed one in which the expression of real love is increasingly
- THE BULLY PROBLEM - A wave of research over the past two decades has
documented bullying's harmful and lasting impact on children of all
ages. Results clearly show the psychological damage inflicted by
violence, insults, and intimidation. But less clear has been what
schools can actually do to prevent bullying. Some anti-bullying programs
have gotten good results, some haven't, and the jury is still out on
others. In this article, Amy Wilson surveys the bullying research and
looks at what schools have done recently to try to address bullying
among their students. She explores the complexity of developing
effective anti-bullying programs, but she also identifies several
principles and methods that distinguish the effective programs from the
rest. The article from the most recent issue of Greater Good is a
valuable resources for teachers, school administrators, and parents
STUDENT CONTEXT, STUDENT ATTITUDES & BEHAVIOR & ACADEMIC
What are the key factors that promote academic success among students whose
demographic characteristics and school circumstances place them at high risk
of failure? Theresa Akey provides highly suggestive, although not
conclusive, answers to this question. This study’s findings may have
important implications for understanding how students learn in the
classroom. Consonant with previous research, they indicate that both
engagement in school and students’ perception of their own academic
competence influence achievement in mathematics for high school students.
But the study departs from earlier work in suggesting that perceived
academic competence may be more influential than engagement in boosting
achievement in both mathematics and reading. Indeed, analyses indicate that
perceived competence had a stronger influence on subsequent engagement than
engagement had on students’ perceptions of themselves as competent learners.
The findings also make clear that supportive teachers and clear and high
expectations about behavior are key to the development of both student
engagement and perceived competence. This study suggests that the earlier
schools and teachers begin to build students’ confidence in their ability to
do well, the better off students will be. Because students’ perceptions of
their capacity for success are key to their engagement in school and
learning, schools should be designed to enhance students’ feelings of
accomplishment. Teachers whom students see as supportive and who set clear
expectations about behavior help create an atmosphere in which students feel
in control and confident about their ability to succeed in future
SELF- DISCIPLINE MAY BEAT SMARTS AS KEY TO SUCCESS
Zoe Bellars and Brad McGann, eighth-graders at Swanson Middle School in
Arlington, do their homework faithfully and practice their musical
instruments regularly. In a recent delayed gratification experiment, they
declined to accept a dollar bill when told they could wait a week and get
Those traits might be expected of good students, certainly no big deal. But
a study by University of Pennsylvania researchers suggests that
self-discipline and self-denial could be a key to saving U.S. schools.
According to a recent article by Angela L. Duckworth and Martin E.P.
Seligman in the journal Psychological Science, self-discipline is a better
predictor of academic success than even IQ.
"Underachievement among American youth is often blamed on inadequate
teachers, boring textbooks, and large class sizes," the researchers said.
"We suggest another reason for students falling short of their intellectual
potential: their failure to exercise self-discipline... We believe that many
of America's children have trouble making choices that require them to
sacrifice short-term pleasure for long-term gain, and that programs that
build self-discipline may be the royal road to building academic
But how, educators, parents and other social scientists want to know, do you
measure self-discipline? Duckworth, a former teacher studying for a
doctorate in psychology, and Seligman, a psychology professor famous for
books such as "Learned Optimism," used an assortment of yardsticks,
including questions for the students (including how likely they are to have
trouble breaking bad habits, on a 1-to-5 scale), ratings by their teachers
and parents and the $1-now-or-$2-later test, which the researchers call the
Delay Choice Task.
THE LESSON SPOT - USING QUOTATIONS
A great tool to use in the classroom is having students discuss quotations
or to write an essay based upon a specific quote. Here are some ideas that
a teacher can use if they structure a lesson around quotes.
QUOTATIONS - Discussion Guide
Ask questions like the following:
QUOTATIONS - Activity Ideas
- What do you think this quotation means?
- What are the most important ideas and values embedded in the quote?
- How would you rewrite this quotation if you had to use synonyms of
the original words?
- Give a “real life” example of what this quote is about.
- What circumstances do you think prompted the speaker to say this?
- Why do you suppose this quotation is famous or at least notable?
- If this quote doesn’t apply to you directly, what kind of person or
situation would it apply to?
- Is there something you can learn from this quote about how you
should live your life?
- How would the world be different if everyone lived by this
quotation? How would the world be different if no one lived by this
- Is this quote realistic or idealistic?
- Have students find five quotes about one topic, such as honesty or
success, or about one of the Six Pillars.
- Have students research and write a short biography of the person who
said their favorite quote.
- Have students rewrite five quotes using language a 10-year-old could
- Use a quotation as a journal prompt at the beginning (or end) of
class. Students can then pick out their favorite journal entry to expand
into a full essay.
- Have students find and explain one quote that uses a simile and one
that uses a metaphor.
- Give students the first part of a quote and have them think of
different endings. For example, “Most folks are about as happy as ...
_________.” (The original quote, from American president Abraham
Lincoln, ends with “they make up their minds to be.”)
- List 10 quotes for students and have them rank the quotes in order
of how meaningful they would be to a child, a teenager, a parent, or an
- Select a quotation and write it on the board. Have students copy it,
write what it means in their own words, and give an example from their
- As a twist on the traditional “current events” assignment, have
students select a quote that relates to the news story and explain why
it is relevant to that current event.
- Have students organize a list of quotes by the Six Pillars of
Character (trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring
and citizenship). Ask them to explain how each quote relates to the
Pillar category in which they placed it.
- Assign a group of three or four students a particular maxim and have
them prepare a one- to two-minute skit to illustrate the essential
message of the quotation..
- Cut the quotes into strips of paper and have students draw a quote
from a box. For homework, express the message of the quote in a poster,
poem, essay, or song.
For more information on using quotations, along with a weekly writing
prompt, go to the Foundations for Life
COMMENTARY BY MICHAEL JOSEPHSON
Character Is an Essential Competence
If you were hiring a new CEO, what are the most important qualities you`d
look for? Surely you`d want a high level of demonstrated competence -
knowledge and experience, intelligence, vision, communication and
relationship skills, and the ability to motivate, manage and solve problems.
But what about qualities such as honesty, moral courage, accountability and
Despite bold rhetoric about the indispensability of good character, many
hard-driving organizations are willing to be "flexible" on the character
issue to get a person perceived to be exceptionally competent.
Thus, many current scandals - in business, the church and college sports -
occurred because organizations compromised their principles by recruiting,
retaining or tolerating leaders with serious character flaws that generated
costly accusations of wrongdoing and undermined trust, morale, teamwork and
I used to tell clients that competence and character were two separate
aspects of intelligent employment decisions. Now, I think it`s a mistake to
separate the concepts. Today, good character is an essential aspect of
Long ago, Samuel Johnson said, "Integrity without knowledge is weak and
useless, but knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful." Warren
Buffett updated the notion. He said, "In looking for people to hire, look
for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don`t
have the first, the other two will kill you."
Since it`s easier to train a person of good character to do a job well than
it is to develop character in a skilled but unprincipled employee, if you
have to choose, hire for character and train for skills.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.