Opinion

Cantor: 'Character Counts' and other things Michael Josephson taught me

Posted 12/8/21

Michael Josephson, we need you! I have always assumed……yeah I know what that means, but I have done so and that is that.

Recent activities in our corner of the world have given me …

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Opinion

Cantor: 'Character Counts' and other things Michael Josephson taught me

Posted

Michael Josephson, we need you! I have always assumed……yeah I know what that means, but I have done so and that is that.

Recent activities in our corner of the world have given me pause. Not because they are extraordinary in this day and age, but because they are not extraordinary, but all too “usual” these days.

Going through boxes of saved papers from my primary school days, high school at Coronado (yep, SUSDs very own), college, my kids’ K-12 years and after, and my husband’s papers from college, teaching, being an editor and broadcaster and back to teaching, things saved from the grandkids (great things to build on) watching how the great grandkids are creating beautiful and funny things to share…… right, that is a lot of boxes. Every slip of paper saved carries vivid memories.

Mr. Michael Josephson looms large amongst the pages of memories. He founded the Josephson Institute in 1987, about the same time I was entering the world of PTA and volunteering in my kids schools.

The Josephson Institute was to honor his parents, Joseph and Edna Josephson, who were responsible for planting the seeds for the Character Counts program. And that was followed by “Ethics Centers that focused on the core ethical values identified by nonpartisan, secular group of youth development experts. Values that transcend cultural, religious and socioeconomic differences.”

We were working on parts of the Character Counts Program as students progressed from kindergarten to graduation. It was a process that called many of us to think about how things are perceived, especially through the eyes of children and more so through the eyes and minds of young adults, still in school with one foot about to land as an independent person.

When I think of Character Counts today, I think we could all stand a refresher course. It feels like “common sense ran off with character.” Please! Send them back!

Trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship were the core elements, but over the years things have evolved to include a comprehensive student development program including academic, social and emotional skills and traits, as well as those original six elements that make up the Six Pillars of Character.”

In 1992, a meeting was held in Aspen, Colorado with youth leaders, educators, and character education scholars and out of that meeting came the “Aspen Declaration.”

The eight sentences that make up the Declaration are as profound and clearly pertinent today, just as they were all those years ago. More so because so much of what we are as a people and a country depends on those eight sentences.

1. The next generation will be the stewards of our communities, nation and planet in extraordinarily critical times.

2. In such times, the well-being of our society requires an involved, caring citizenry with good moral character.

3. People do not automatically develop good moral character; therefore, conscientious efforts must be made to help young people develop the values and abilities necessary for moral decision -making and conduct.

4. Effective character education is based on core ethical values rooted in a democratic society, in particular, respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, justice and fairness caring and civic virtue and citizenship.

5. These core ethical values transcend cultural, religious and socioeconomic differences.

6. Character education is , first and foremost, an obligation of families and faith communities, but schools and youth-service organizations also have a responsibility to help develop the character of young people.

7. These responsibilities are best achieved when these groups work in concert.

8. The character and conduct of our youth reflect the character and conduct of society; therefore, every adult has the responsibility to teach and model the core ethical values and every social institution has the responsibility to promote the development of good character.

The Ethics Centers launched by the Josephson Center, now located at Drake University, have worked on sportsmanship, public service, business and community policing. All of which are under close scrutiny presently. All in a state of flux. And all working on dealing with serious questions and challenges to character for all of us across this country.

Editor’s Note: Nancy Cantor is a longtime resident of Scottsdale and community advocate.

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