John W. Arceneaux | 4/19/2005 10:28:40 PM
Schools are in the construction business. "No, you won’t find them in the construction section of the classified ads, but you will find them constructing tomorrow through the students of today," says LSU AgCenter state 4-H Character Education coordinator Johnny Arceneaux.
Put another way, schools are laboratories for life. What is taught in them today will influence tomorrow, both intellectually and in the character of people, businesses, government and communities, Arceneaux explains.
"All men by nature desire to know," Aristotle said. Is this true? If it is, why do schools face the challenge of students not wanting to learn and lacking the work ethic to achieve their potential? Arceneaux asks.
Why do 74 percent of students engage in cheating, instead of learning, as identified by the "2002 Report Card, The Ethics of American Youth" published by the Josephson Institute of Ethics.
Are the students of today the problem or a symptom of a problem? Arceneaux examines this question through a process of investigation called root cause analysis. This process is used extensively in business and industry to determine if an occurrence, such as the failure of a piece of equipment, is the problem or a symptom of another problem that is the root cause.
"Lying, stealing, cheating, bullying, not being interested in learning and a poor overall school work ethic are definitely problems, but they are also symptoms of a much larger problem," Arceneaux says. These behaviors are found where they are taught, enforced, advocated and modeled by adults, workplaces and communities. Therefore, it is critical that positive character traits be T.E.A.M.ed, that is, taught, enforced, advocated and modeled in the school environment.
Character Counts!, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics, promotes community involvement in youth development and teaches that the character of a youth is greatly influence by what is T.E.A.M.ed in the youth’s environment. School is part of a student’s environment, and it is critical that a school’s culture T.E.A.M.s character traits essential for a learning environment and democratic society.
The six pillars of character of Character Counts!– trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship – are a universal standard of ethical behavior. Schools that frame their culture with them experience less of the unwanted student and staff behaviors and more of the wanted ones.
In the publication, "The Evidence That Character Counts! Works," Linda Jones, who coordinates the Dallas Independent School District Character Counts! program, comments on the six pillars being adopted in a school, "It’s like night and day. The whole emotional atmosphere changed, it became a kinder, gentler place."
Arceneaux says schools do not purposely support unethical student behavior, but what is allowed becomes an unwritten standard. What is allowed at home and in the community also becomes an unwritten standard and has a major influence on the behavior of a youth at school.
"The minimum behavior allowed and modeled can become the maximum performed by subordinates," the character education coordinator states, adding, "Schools, parents and communities must work together, support and model a universal character standard like the six pillars of character."
Arceneaux says T.E.A.M. also stands for Together, Everyone Achieves More. He encourages school personnel, parents and concerned citizens to contact their parish LSU AgCenter office to learn about the character education materials and services available to help them incorporate the six pillars of character into their classrooms, schools, homes, sports, workplaces and communities. In addition, he recommends visiting the Character Education section under the Louisiana 4-H Web site: http://www.louisiana4h.org/.