The Dallas Morning News published information concerning the Living To Change Lives Foundation, which was established by Mrs. Juanell Teague to put character-based courses in our educational structure. The tragic shootings in several of our schools in recent months, primarily by fellow students, combined with declining academic performance, dropouts and rebellion, all point to the need to add character education to the curriculum.
The great civilizations of the past were character-based, and when character and family values were abandoned, civilizations fell. Anthropologist J. D. Unwin conducted a study of 80 civilizations spanning over 3,000 years. All of them started with noble objectives and strong family values, including faithfulness and commitment. However, when premarital and extramarital sex entered into the picture, the other values collapsed, and the civilizations fell.
The great philosophers of Greece, Sparta and Rome initially espoused the character-based approach to life. Great civilizations were created, but when they took the "anything goes" approach to life, they, too, fell. In our own society, in the 1700s and 1800s, when 90 percent of the educational thrust was of a moral/ethical/character base, our country produced Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and so on.
By the 1950s, the percentage of moral/ethical training in our society was so low it could scarcely be measured. It's safe to say that this generation has not produced even one leader of the caliber of our founding fathers. For nearly 200 years, the New England Primer was used, and first-graders were learning five- and six-syllable words.
Today, our president's objective is to have kids reading by the time they finish the third grade. My optimism convinces me that values-based education can reverse the trend and produce the leaders our country must have. But we must do it now.
The question is often rhetorically asked, "Whose values will we teach?" The objective is to teach qualities like honesty, integrity, commitment, courtesy, kindness, responsibility, respect, hard work, motivation, enthusiasm, positive thinking, dedication, manners, goal-setting, ambition, and so on. In the process, we will use many four-letter words like, "hope," "real," "fair," "good," "best," "love," and so on.
The reason we use these words and teach these qualities is because, in my business experience, I have yet to have one employer say that he or she had never told a job applicant, "I'm sorry, we can't use someone like you. You're so honest, enthusiastic, highly motivated, responsible, and so on, you would be a misfit in our company." However, I've had many employers say, "You send me applicants with those character qualities, and we will teach them the specific skills they will need to succeed in our business."
With my tongue firmly in my cheek, I will say to any parent, "If there are any of the above qualities that you do not want your child taught, let us know which quality that is, and we'll make certain your child is never polluted with that quality."
The character courses will teach the things that generally are not taught in formal educational classes. Namely, how to set and reach goals, the values of the right attitude and how to maintain it, and how to build winning relationships and develop the qualities of success. Research at UCLA proves that those people who have a goals program and a character foundation earn more than twice as much money as those who do not. In addition, they are happier, healthier, and get along better with the folks at home.
The course I'm describing would be a tremendous asset if it were taught in grade schools, middle schools and high schools. For the foundation to succeed, and for every child in America to have a legitimate shot at learning what it takes to be successful in all areas of life, we will need the support of parents, teachers, the PTAs, the corporate world and, of course, the legislative world.
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