Tuesday, October 26, 1999

Kids urged to build character

Police turn to new way to educate

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        CRESCENT SPRINGS — Police officers showed up at St. Joseph Elementary School on Monday armed with some new ideas about trying to teach kids to be better people.

        Officers and school officials wanted to teach something different than the traditional DARE anti-drug program this year. What they found was Character Counts.

        Instead of urging kids not to get involved in specific activities such as drugs and gangs, it stresses six positive things — trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.

        “From those six pillars of character, you can build upon anything,” said Police Chief Mike Ward. “It can be from, "You need to be responsible to make your bed' in the morning to, "You need to be responsible for staying off drugs and not hurting your fellow class mates.'”

        Character Counts will send police officers into every first-

        through sixth-grade class once a week. The department introduced the plan to children at St. Joseph's Monday morning. The chief and others ate lunch with the students and told them they'll be back next week to start teaching classes.

        Only a few police departments have joined the national Character Counts! Coalition. Crescent Springs and the Northern Kentucky Police Chiefs Association are among them.

        The YMCA of Greater Cincinnati is also a supporter of the program. Its character development program focuses on four traits — caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. New kits promoting those attributes went out to 30 Greater Cincinnati schools this week. They contained rulers, notebooks and other school trinkets the agency hopes teachers will use to incorporate the four attributes into class work.

        “We want to show the kids that you don't just have to be gifted in sports,” said YMCA spokeswoman Jackie Mathews, “that you can be gifted in just being a good person.”

        The national group's Web site (www.charactercounts.org) lists dozens of other members, from individual schools across the country to national organizations like 4-H, the United States Youth Soccer Association, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America and the American Federation of Teachers. President Clinton and both houses of Congress endorse the concept.

        The Character Counts! Coalition began in 1993 as an outgrowth of the Josephson Institute of Ethics, a non-profit teaching organization based in California. The six pillars were chosen after a survey the year before of 9,000 people, mostly high school and college students, found that cheating, lying, stealing and drunken driving were commonplace.

        Roberts Paideia Academy in Price Hill also teaches the pillars. It adopted the idea in 1997 with hopes that it would cut down on what the principal called escalating thoughtlessness among kids.


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