Character counts -- everywhere


The Robert and Billie Jo Ray

Foundation is accepting nominations

of Iowans of Character

for its annual awards. Our

newsroom hopes there will

be nominations from Emmet

County. Of all places, we might

need the boost more than anywhere


The national Character Counts

Coalition identifies six pillars

of character: trustworthiness,

respect, responsibility, fairness,

caring and citizenship.

In Emmet County as with

other places, our schools teach

character alongside math, science,

history and language arts.

School should not be the only

place children learn character.

The community is an important

part of building the foundations

of being a good citizen within


According to Ron Skinner,

writing in Education Week, The

formal teaching of morals and

values is not a new phenomenon;

rather, it has been part of

democratic thought throughout

history. Plato and Aristotle in

the Greece of the 4th century

B.C.E. believed the role of education

was to train good and

virtuous citizens. John Locke,

the 17th-century democratic

philosopher, believed that

learning was secondary to virtue.

“Reading and writing and

learning I allow to be necessary,

but yet not the chief business

[of education]. I imagine you

would think him a very foolish

fellow, that should not value a

virtuous or a wise man infinitely

before a great scholar.”

As public schools proliferated

in the early United States,

McGuffey’s Eclectic Readers,

which consisted of collections

of stories used to educate and

transmit moral lessons, were

“the most widely read books in

19th-century America” outside

of the King James Bible The

readers were used as school

textbooks and were designed to

instill both biblical values and

train good workers by preaching

sobriety, thrift, responsibility,

and self-restraint. But the influence

of McGuffey’s Readers

waned in the early 20th century

because of their reliance on

religious precepts and because

of changes in the way society

viewed morality.

Character education, as it is

known today, began to appear in

the early 1990s. A 1991 book

by Thomas Lickona, Educating

for Character, reintroduced the

idea that there is a set of common

beliefs and values upon

which all people can agree. A

year later, a group of educators,

ethicists, and scholars met

in Aspen, Colo., for a gathering

that resulted in the Aspen

Declaration and the beginning of

the Character Counts Coalition.

Since the early 1990s, the federal

government has embraced

the idea of offering character

education in public schools

and has made grants available

to states interested in piloting

new character education

programs in their schools. In

response, for-profit and nonprofit

organizations have developed

character programs for

schools, districts, and states.

Former first lady Laura Bush

promoted the use of character

education in schools, saying

that “reading and writing are

not all we need to teach our

children. We need to make sure

we’re teaching our children to

be responsible citizens who

have good values and ethics.”

Character education can be

instrumental in preventing

substance abuse, improving

academic performance, promoting

general health, or supporting

other social behaviors.

It’s never too late to continue

discussing what constitutes

good character and lifting each

other up to be our best selves,

even well into adulthood.

Character, courage, integrity

and morality will never go out

of style, and in Emmet County

as well as throughout the world,

it lifts us all in challenging



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