Good test scores, quality workmanship, respectful students and employees - all of these have something in common. The link is ethical character, says LSU AgCenter state 4-H character education coordinator John Arceneaux.
"Only through ethical character can excellence be achieved by individuals, schools and workplaces," Arceneaux asserts.
What do character and work ethics have in common? Everything! according to Arceneaux, explaining that work ethics are how we describe employee character. He says there is a universal standard of character and work ethics that transcends time, cultures, religions and socio-economics. That standard is called the six pillars of character by the Character Counts! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics. The pillars are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
"The culture of the environment influences values, beliefs and behaviors," Arceneaux says, emphasizing that role models shape the character of a culture. He encourages adults to help build character through the T.E.A.M. approach: teach, enforce, advocate and model.
"We tell students and employees to be honest and trustworthy, but does what we do (what we T.E.A.M.) in the classroom, workplace and home suggest otherwise?" Arceneaux asks.
According to a study released by the Josephson Institute of Ethics in October 2004, based on a national survey of 24,763 high school students, youth speak of the importance of ethics, character and trust but frequently lie, cheat and steal without much guilt or hesitation.
The study showed that youth cynicism often reflects itself in a rationalization process that nullifies ethical judgment and condones conduct contrary to stated ethical convictions. Seventy percent said it is very important to be thought of as ethical and honorable, 84 percent said it is very important to have good moral character and 92 percent said they are satisfied with their own ethics and character. However, 59 percent agreed that "in the real world, successful people do what they have to do to win, even if others consider it cheating."
Regarding cheating, lying and stealing in the past 12 months, the survey indicated that 62 percent cheated during a test at school, 83 percent copied another's homework, 62 percent lied to a teacher about something significant, 82 percent lied to a parent about something significant, 27 percent stole something from a store, 22 percent stole something from a parent or other relative and 18 percent stole something from a friend.
"The cynicism shown by youth and contradiction between stated values and actions are major concerns, but youth, alone, do not create the ethical problems of our world," Arceneaux says, explaining, "Their behaviors reflect the culture of their environment."
The character educator adds, "Youth are our future and have an untapped potential that will create our tomorrow. What tomorrow will look like depends on the character we T.E.A.M. today for our youth."
Arceneaux encourages school personnel, parents and concerned citizens to contact their parish LSU AgCenter offices to learn about the character education materials and services available to help them through Louisiana 4-H. In addition, he recommends visiting the Character Education section under the Louisiana 4-H Web site: http://www.louisiana4h.org/.