Is teaching character really a subject that belongs in school? I believe the answer to this question is an astounding Yes! Children need to learn the core subjects of math, reading, science, and social studies. There is no question about that, but kids also need to understand what characteristics will help them to grow in to productive, responsible citizens.
Surveys show excessive levels of cheating, lying, stealing and drunken driving among teens and young adults. There are increases in risky behaviors including delinquency, pregnancy, violence and substance abuse in America’s youth.
Unethical behavior can be seen far too often in today’s workplace. Employee fraud:” Costs firms $600 billion a year. (Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, 2002 Report to the Nation on Occupational Fraud and Abuse) Fraud also “Costs employers 20 percent of every dollar earned, according to U.S. workers surveyed in 2002 by Ernst & Young. (The CPA Letter, October 2002) Teaching character to children at an early age can help to significantly reduce workplace fraud, employee misconduct, and can add value to companies whose employees have been involved in an ethics program.
All is not lost thanks to character development programs and forward thinking people seeing the value of these asset based programs being taught in schools and other organizations. On a national level, the largest detailed scientific survey of elementary school teachers has been underway in Virginia since 2000. The results show that Character Counts, a national character education program, improved student behavior in every category assessed.
In 2001, teachers returned surveys from 55 schools representing 7,014 elementary school students. Of the 24 categories, investigators found statistically significant improvements in all but three: cheating (trustworthiness), using threats (respect), and judging others (respect). Even in these areas, changes moved in the right direction.
In 2002, teachers returned surveys from 27 schools representing 462 classrooms and 7,740 elementary school students. This time results were even better. The investigators found statistically significant improvements from pre- to post-measurement in all 24 categories (http://www.charactercounts.org/doing/survey-reports.htm).
Communities across the country that have embraced character education program are experiencing very positive results. “Youth offenses have dropped 76% in St. Johns County, Florida, since implementing a (character education program) in 1998-99. The youth crime rate after release from the Tulare County Probation Youth Facility in California was only 8% compared to the national rate of 72%” (http://www.charactercounts.org/slideshow/).
Character education is a necessity, and does show positive results.