News Articles

Character education gets boost on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (BP)–In a nation where 71 percent of public school students admit to cheating in class, 93 percent acknowledge lying to their parents and 16 percent say they’ve shown up to class drunk, there is mounting pressure for the federal government to pay for character education programs.

Those disturbing numbers were revealed in a survey conducted by the organization, “Character Counts.” In addition, 35 percent of the students questioned said they had stolen items from a store.

On Feb. 13, New Mexico’s Republican Sen. Pete Domenici joined with Connecticut’s Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd to introduce the Strong Character for Strong Schools Act, which would encourage the creation and funding of character education programs at the state and local levels, according to a report in CNSNews.com.

Most character education programs, according to Domenici and Dodd, include “six pillars:” trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. In most programs, teachers use these themes to establish programs where one “pillar” is highlighted each month. At the end of the month, students are awarded character awards for excelling in that particular virtue.

Domenici said the six themes chosen have been overwhelmingly accepted in his home state because they are common virtues most would agree are important in the formation of a young person’s character.

“In my state of New Mexico, 230,000 children in 90 percent of the schools participate in character education programs,” Domenici said. “They use six pillars that aren’t based on any religion or philosophy, but rather represent the kind of values everyone can agree were important.”

Domenici sponsored a similar bill in 1994, which Bruce Bortner, executive director of New Mexico Character Counts, Inc., says allowed the creation of character education programs from the ground up.

“Sen. Domenici’s bill provided money that was dispersed throughout New Mexico to get the character education programs in schools through organizations like us who sponsor awareness programs to let people know what was going on in their schools, training people to teach the programs and provide material to use with the program,” Bortner said. “To my knowledge, the programs were very popular, well-liked by everyone and few complaints were made.”

“Our schools may be built on the brick of English, math and science, but character education is certainly the mortar,” Dodd said. “This initiative ensures that our children’s character, as well as their minds, receive care and nurturing in our schools.”

According to the senators, a total of $50 million would be available to fund such programs. Eligible applicants would have to provide the U.S. secretary of education with a description of the involvement of parents, teachers and the community; curriculum and instructional practices; and the linkage to other school programs designed to improve student performance.

Domenici said the White House is expected to support such a bill, based on what President Bush has said about character education in the past.

“I found it especially telling when President Bush, in his inaugural address, emphasized the necessity of teaching each child these principles and the duty of every citizen to uphold these same principles,” he said. “I think President Bush’s renewed focus on character sends a great message to Americans and will help those involved in character education.”

Dodd said the bill is expected to pass with support from both Democrats and Republicans.
Pierce is an editorial assistant with CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

    About the Author

  • Jason Pierce