MD school connects students with veterans, role models for character formation

Maryland’s Francis Scott Key High School is connecting students with local veterans and other role models in the community as part of a concerted effort to build good character, an ingredient parents cited as a critical component of quality education during interviews with the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

Audrey Cimino, executive director of the Community Foundation of Carroll County, described in a recent editorial for the Carroll County Times how the FSK Advisory Council and Academic Boosters have deliberately worked to emphasize academic achievement and character education.

The FSK Advisory Council consists of school administrators, faculty, alumni, parents, business, community, and political leaders who came together five years ago to make Advanced Placement tests more accessible to low-income students through scholarships, and boost attendance through McDonald’s gift cards.

But the group is impacting students in other ways beyond academics and attendance.

“The Veterans Day Celebration at FSK has brought the students face-to-face with American heroes and both groups have benefited. The vets get to tell their stories and get to know this new generation,” Cimino wrote. “The students get to hear firsthand the history they have only read about and to appreciate the sacrifices made by previous generations that impact their lives today.”

Last week, the FSK Advisory Council unveiled a Wall of Excellence at the high school—”a place where FSK alumni could be held up to the current student body as examples of what former students had achieved and what was possible for them to achieve as well,” according to Cimino.

“Character counts and it is on display at these celebrations,” she wrote.

The Institute’s “Culture of American Families Interview Report” makes clear it’s very important to present students with role models, particularly from previous generations.

It also highlights the importance of using the word “character” or character’s attending virtues.

In the Institute’s interviews with parents—3,500 pages of transcripts—the words “character” and “virtue” were used only 26 times.

“Parents clearly cared about the character of their children,” the report found, but they used other terms.

Qualities like “courage” or “humility” are difficult to measure, but “the words we use have the power to create the worlds we inhabit,” which is why we have to be intentional about words that are more commanding, authoritative, and inspiring, according to the CAF report.

Students take anti-bullying pledge to promote kindness, compassion

Carroll County Public Schools’ Winfield Elementary School in Maryland launched an anti-bullying campaign this month that’s designed to instill kindness and compassion among young students, skills lost with the erosion of character education in American schools.

As students streamed into Winfield on Monday, they were greeted with chalk messages including “bully-free zone,” “be kind,” and “Wildcat Warriors,” as well as the school mascot “Winfield Wildcat,” who encouraged students to sign up for a new “bully-free pledge,” the Carroll County Times reports.

The pledge was spelled out on a big blue board where students signed their names alongside their teachers, promising to treat each other with dignity and respect.

“(Winfield is doing) what we can do here as a community to change the life of the kids starting in elementary school, which I feel is the biggest thing,” Jackie Diachenko, the school’s nurse, told the news site.

The nurse said that throughout Winfield’s Bullying Awareness Week, students will learn to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate behavior, the importance of treating themselves and others with respect, and other lessons about good character that were once part of the curriculum in schools.

Diachenko also told the Times that the Bullying Awareness Week follows a Bullying Awareness Club she launched at Winfield last year. It also coincides with National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.

“What empathy we feel may help us understand someone else’s needs, and even feel the desire to help that person. But without embedded habits and moral traditions, empathy does not tell us what to do, nor when, nor how,” according to James Hunter in The Tragedy of Moral Education.

Signing a pledge is a good idea if students learn to keep their promises and get in the habit of treating others with dignity and respect. This can be reinforced by teaching and modeling character in the school and the home, establishing habits of kindness and empathy so that when students are tempted to bully other students, they have the habits of resisting that urge and a community of other students and adults who will reinforce the students’ self-restraint.

“The way the world is now and what we’re growing up in—I feel like if we’re able to make a difference and stop the negativity at such a young age, then it’s going to radiate through their life,” Diachenko said.

WI high-schoolers get lessons on character from local business leaders

Business and marketing teacher Bridget Hubbard is leading a new effort at Wisconsin’s Onalaska High School that she’s hoping will change the dynamic for students, both before and after they graduate. The effort restores the primary purpose of character education to schooling and could lead students to lives of greater purpose.

“This is my 24th year of teaching—all at Onalaska High School—and this is the final click,” Hubbard told the La Crosse Tribune. “This is what they need to complete their education.”

Hubbard is partnering with local business leaders to implement a new curriculum called “Character Lives,” the latest in a growing movement to bring back character education, which was once a central part of a good education.

The effort will help students learn better ways of relating to others, important leadership skills, and other intangible measures of good character, such as kindness, service, empathy, and perseverance.

Student success after graduation is dependent on good character as much or more than good grades, she said. Hubbard and local business leaders are raising $600,000 to launch the Character Lives program at Onalaska High and nearly 20 other schools to ensure students are prepared when they receive their diploma.

“As we look at where everything is in the world, it all has come back to relationships, to listening,” Hubbard told the Tribune. “We learn how to listen.”

John Norlin, who helped design the Character Lives curriculum, agreed that if schools “only focus on end-of-year scores,” they’re selling students short.

“High intellect without character comes up short in the education process,” he said.

President Theodore Roosevelt put it another way: “To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to create a menace to society.”

Education and character formation were historically considered inseparable, but more recently character education, seen as an individual matter, has dropped out of school curricula.

“Though character has usually been considered to be more social in its constitution—reflecting the ideas, institutions, and individuals who constitute a moral culture—it has in modernity come to be considered as . . . reflecting the personal choices, brain functioning, preferences, and/or ‘values’ of autonomous individuals,” Ryan Olson wrote in “Character Education,” published by Oxford University Press.

Patrick Clements, a retired Air Force colonel and president of Clements Management Consulting who is helping launch the Character Lives curriculum, believes that reinjecting character lessons into education will have a profound impact on not only the students themselves, but their communities as a whole.

“When students learn the value of kindness, service, and empathy, they don’t just walk out of school being competent at math and science—they walk away being capable, compassionate neighbors, workers, friends, and volunteers,” he told the Tribune.

Educating the whole student, Norlin said, will also have a serious impact on issues like bullying in schools, which is now mostly addressed through slogans and posters that only scratch the surface of the problem.

“In reality, we should flip it upside down and make intentional the teaching of strong relational skills and make it part of the culture,” he said.

High school educators could thicken their approach to character education by getting students to reflect on the purpose of their lives, as described in this exercise from the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues.

Is non-abuse what “good moral character” means?

It would seem that our public standards of “good moral character” are too low.

That’s the unavoidable conclusion that comes when you read the “Affidavit of Good Moral Character,” a document produced by the Florida Department of Children and Families. It’s required by the State of Florida that those who want to work with children “affirm and attest under penalty of perjury that [they] meet the moral character requirements for employment . . .”

What are these “moral character requirements”?

That applicants:

. . . have not been arrested with disposition pending or found guilty of, regardless of adjudication, or entered a plea of nolo contender or guilty to or have been adjudicated delinquent and the record has not been sealed or expunged for, any offense prohibited under any of the following provisions of the Florida Statutes . . .

In other words, that they have never been found guilty of or are currently charged with violating Florida laws.

Which laws? Well, first, every possible law relating to “sexual misconduct” with patients, the mentally ill, or children (ranging from rape to voyeurism); abuse; murder; manslaughter; kidnapping; assault “if the offense was a felony” or “if the victim of offense was a minor”; burglary; theft; “fraudulent sale of controlled substances”; and a few other odds and ends.

It’s a moment like this that you begin to realize how perverted our definition of “good moral character” has become. Somehow that term has been used to title a document that would be better called “Affidavit of Legal Conduct.”

It’s a classic example of what the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called “defining deviancy down.” Moynihan (who was not only a senator but a PhD in History) was using a theory of the pioneering French sociologist Emile Durkheim. Durkheim had suggested in 1895 that, first, crime and deviance were normal throughout human history and human society. However, second, there was a limit to the deviance any community can “afford to recognize,” and that communities traditionally exert social control to contain that deviancy. Moynihan suggested that “over the past generation . . . the amount of deviant behavior in American society has increased beyond the levels the community can ‘afford to recognize’ and that, accordingly, we have been re-defining deviancy so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized, and also quietly raising the ‘normal’ level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by any earlier standard.”

In the case of the State of Florida, where “good moral character” might once have meant being kind, loving, courageous, merciful, and wise—all for the benefit of the children under the person’s care—it now means that one hasn’t forced a child to have sex.

Nor is Florida alone in defining character down. The Immigration Learning Center explains to potential U.S. citizens that “good moral character” is what you must maintain during your five years before filing for citizenship. And as in Florida, good moral character is defined as obeying certain laws. They helpfully explain that “people who have been convicted of murder at any time cannot become U.S. citizens”—murder seems to exceed the statue of character limitations that otherwise applies.

After reading such bland, boring legalese, it no longer seems mysterious why everyone is in favor of character, but no one can seem to define it. Florida and the Immigration Learning Center, with the full force of government behind them, define character as simply not breaking the law—including those against the most awful violations in this or any other culture.

And it recalls the words of James Davison Hunter in The Death of Character, published seventeen years ago, but—as such evidence proves—even more relevant today. He begins the book with a “Postmortem” for character, and writes “. . . character in America has not died a natural death. There has been an ironic and unintended complicity among the very people who have taken on the task of being its guardians and promoters.”

Seventeen years later, that complicity continues.

NYC families cite positive family culture as big benefit of learning from home

Parents in New York City are touting the benefits of homeschooling, particularly the more intimate experience with their children that tailors learning to their needs and strengths.

The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture’s “Culture of American Families” report finds that the benefits of a tight family culture also extend beyond academics to shape students’ moral character and perspective on the world.

Fox 5 recently featured Hell’s Kitchen mother, Sara Doldan, who opted to homeschool her 5-year-old daughter, Willow, through K12 International Academy.

“It just really caught my attention because I knew that I could really have more of an influence on her overall future with whatever she decided to do,” Doldan said.

The flexibility allowed her to emphasize Willow’s academic interests and strengths as she completes her coursework with 6-year-old neighbor, Ariana Simmons, who uses the same online school.

Ariana, an aspiring actress, explained why she loves learning from home.

“It allows me to go at my own pace,” she said, “And, as an actress, singer, and writer, it allows me to pursue my dreams.”

Ariana’s mother, Dalli, also cited the close relationship parents build with their children as a big benefit.

“You also get to see where they’re struggling,” she said. “You get to understand both from an academic way, but also from a social and emotional.”

The “Culture of American Families” project interviewed more than 100 parents of school-age children, and the results show a positive family culture can also have big benefits for children in several important ways.

Researchers concluded “that the seedbeds of virtue are found within many overlapping domains that would include school, peer relationships, places of worship, the internet, and popular culture, but the most important of all is the family and its culture.”

“Family culture acts as a filter for the larger culture, and its role in forming character ideas among the young is fundamental and irreducible to other factors,” the CAF researchers wrote. “Whether or not parents are deliberate about it, they create a moral ecology through which children come to understand and internalize the moral life of the larger world.”

Laurie Spigel, founder of Home, told Fox News many of the city’s roughly 4,600 homeschooling families chose the alternative education model because their children come home from public schools bored and disengaged.

Many also want to instill character virtues in their children that are often overlooked in traditional academic settings.

And Spigel asserts that the process of learning at home ultimately sets students up for success, in part because they stand out from the majority who attend traditional schools.

“Colleges actively seek out homeschoolers,” she said. “They know that they’ve had an experience in education that’s more diverse than the standardized package that’s delivered in most public schools. And colleges are looking for diversity.”

She contends that colleges are also looking for students with strong character.

“They’re . . . looking for self-starters, independent learners, and people who know themselves. And because homeschoolers have been given this educational freedom, they’ve had the freedom to learn what they want to learn and how they want to learn it, so they know themselves and what they want to learn much more easily than a kid who hasn’t had those choices,” she said.

Screen time: Parents worry, educators debate

How much screen time in a school is too much? Or is that the wrong question to ask?

Two friends of CultureFeed debate the issue at EdNext.

Tom Vander Ark believes the real question is not whether students are spending too much time in front of screens, but whether “students [are] engaged in powerful learning experiences and, whenever possible, given voice and choice in what, how, and when they learn? Digital technology can powerfully facilitate this process, if thoughtful adults deploy it wisely. Otherwise, it can be mind-numbing, or worse.”

Co-founder of and Learn Capital, Vander Ark argues that while “the performance of digital technology in the classroom proved disappointing early on . . .”, “ . . . the emerging generation of educational technology has the power to accelerate learning productivity in ways we can scarcely imagine. If we can ensure that students are connected to it through the help of teachers, a natural balance between online and offline experiences will develop.”

He does acknowledge that there must be some “appropriate limits.” “Technology,” he observes, “is an amplifier.” It can make good things better, or bad things worse. “The effective use of ed-tech requires thoughtful management and oversight by teachers and parents. Caring adults also need to help young people develop positive self-regulation habits.”

Daniel Scoggin, of the Great Hearts Academies, takes a very different perspective. Co-founder of a system of charter schools dedicated to teaching the classical liberal arts, Scoggin is skeptical of those educators who view “ed-tech as a ‘silver bullet’,” and therefore “indiscriminately toss it in front of today’s so-called digital natives, assuming that more gadgets equal more learning. The opposite may be true. According to a recent Education Week analysis of data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the shares of 4th- and 8th-grade students using computers for math instruction grew rapidly from 2009 to 2015. But the increased access has not led to ‘better’ use . . . Instead, rote activities such as math drills and practice now occur more frequently, and ‘the gap between active and passive use has grown over time.’”

“As we sober up from the tech-infused party of the past 20 years,” he continues, “we should think about what should come first in our schools: shaping not just our students’ ability to persevere and solve difficult problems but also their character—their empathic connection with others, their capacity to see our shared humanity, and their ability to problem solve with others for a common good. I believe this is the ultimate project of schooling in our democracy, and the misapplication of ed-tech will put it at risk. In a time of increasing political and economic polarization, we need conversation, empathy, and character woven into our public life.”

Parents are most worried about managing, overseeing, or the effects of technology, according to “The Culture of American Families” report from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. Specifically, the study found that “parents believe media technologies’ effects on children are not good—manners, treatment of others, stilted imaginations, relaxed norms, virtual realities—but they are not sure if they can control it.” This is because “there is no inherited body of knowledge upon which they can draw. Although parents attempt to find ways to monitor and control these influences, the general feeling is one of defeat. Parents, importantly, seem resigned to these changes and somewhat hopeless in the face of them. The extensive reach of media technologies limits parental influence, and parents feel their ability to impose limits on media technologies is beyond their reach.”

As we consider the extraordinarily important issue of technology in the classroom, we must remember the use of technology in homes. In effect, children are now being exposed every day not only to the cultures of their family and their school (as well as others), but also to an all pervasive, largely unseen, technologically mediated third culture. The intersection of those cultures is one of the crucibles where the content of our children’s character is forged.

Angus McBeath, veteran superintendent on “Character formation as key to school and district academic results”

First as a principal and later as a superintendent of a school district of 82,000 students, I view character formation as a process of instilling habits in both students and staff. It involves behaviors that students use both in the school and outside the school. In this way, students embody the highest goal of education: to become responsible people who are accountable to themselves and to others for their actions and behaviors.

When I, with other staff, began the work of character formation, our work was to address concerns we had regarding bullying, cheating, and racism. We wanted to overcome these and other behaviors that were self-serving, including short-term behaviors which negated the growth and development of self and others. This was seen by many colleagues as hard work done at the expense of more important priorities such as test scores and public confidence.

Ultimately we prevailed as we showed that we could not achieve the desired academic results if we failed to faithfully and successfully pursue character formation.

To legitimate the work of character formation, we continually worked with faculty and staff. We trained them to see how character formation would make their work more fulfilling. It was essential to help them see how character formation could be done in their classrooms and schools as part of their everyday work.

Successful character formation at the district level required us to innovate in four areas. First, we had to provide curriculum and teaching support to faculty. Second, we had to develop measures of success so that administrators could develop the necessary metrics to determine student success in each of the crucial areas of character formation.  Third, results of character formation had to be communicated to the parents and the community to ensure that all stakeholders had a clear sense of our accomplishments. Finally, it was crucial that targets were set to ensure that better results were achieved each year.

I came to value character formation in staff and students as the essential hallmark of the work we did in schools and the district in order to achieve superb results in all areas from students, faculty, and staff.  Failure to take character formation seriously, failure to train teachers and administrators about this work, and failure to measure our accomplishments in this area meant that we would fail to faithfully serve our students and community.


Ripley’s international investigation of boys’ motivation reveals need for character focus

There’s a global phenomenon in education that’s especially obvious in Middle Eastern countries—girls are outperforming boys in school and pursuing educational opportunities their male classmates are not.

Amanda Ripley recently traveled to Jordan to investigate the problem through a reporting fellowship program, and she found the issue among boys boils down to a lack of motivation and disconnect with school, rather than intellect. Incorporating character formation in schools can address students’ motivation challenges by helping them keep the purpose of their education in mind.

Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in the World—and How They Got That Way and senior fellow at the Emerson Collective, published an in-depth report about her trip, research, and interviews with students in The Atlantic last month.

Ripley explained that she wanted to understand why girls in the Middle East do better in school, despite far fewer, lower-paying employment opportunities than those available to men. But she also noted that the trend isn’t an isolated problem.

“It’s part of a pattern that is creeping across the globe: Wherever girls have access to school, they seem to eventually do better than boys,” Ripley wrote. “In 2015, teenage girls outperformed boys on a sophisticated reading test in 69 countries—every place in which the test was administered.”

In the U.S., “girls are more likely to take Advanced Placement tests, to graduate from high school, and to go to college, and women continue their education over a year longer than men,” she wrote.

Natasha Ridge, executive director of the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research in the United Arab Emirates, told Ripley she thinks boys, particularly low-income boys, are disengaging from school.

“If you give girls a quality education, they will mostly run with it and do amazing things,” said Ridge, who studies gender education issues.

“These boys struggle to find a connection between school and life,” she said, “and school is increasingly seen as a waste of time.”

Ripley visited several schools in Jordan, where students are segregated by gender and taught by educators of their same sex. Some students and parents claimed girls have less freedom in Middle Eastern society, so they stay home and study more, while boys play a lot of video games and roam the streets.

Others claimed boys and girls are equally dedicated to school, but boys’ schools are much less inspiring, violent places, in part because most men don’t want to be teachers and schools struggle to find quality educators.

Still others claimed men in Middle Eastern societies have a much easier time gaining employment, and therefore do not need to study as hard in school as girls to land a good job.

Ripley found credence to several of the claims, and she compared what she learned in Jordan to educational achievement in the United States, both in coeducational and single-gender settings. She also spoke with psychologists and other experts.

What she realized is lot of factors play into the issue in both the Middle East and the U.S., but it seems to boil down to one word: motivation.

Ripley writes:

Motivation is the dark matter of education. It’s everywhere but impossible to see. Motivation helps explain why some countries get impressive education results despite child poverty and lackluster teaching, while others get mediocre results despite universal health care and free iPads. When kids believe in school, as any teacher will tell you, everything gets easier. So it’s crucial to understand the motivation to learn and how it works in the lives of real boys and girls. Because the slow slipping away of boys’ interest in education represents a profound failure of schools and society. And the implications are universally terrible. All over the world, poorly educated men are more likely to be unemployed, to have physical- and mental-health problems, to commit acts of violence against their families, and to go to prison. They are less likely to marry but quite likely to father children.

And that’s exactly what seems to be happening in many Middle Eastern public schools. Elements have conspired to create an education system that isn’t working well for anyone—but especially not for boys. And it all comes back to that ethereal dark matter: “The issue is not about intellect; it’s about motivation,” Oman’s education undersecretary Hamood Khalfan Al-Harthi says, echoing the kids I spoke to who dismissed notions of girls as naturally more studious. The problem is, motivation is shaped by parents, teachers, and the culture at large. As Osman’s study noted, Omani boys do not feel like their teachers care about them, and boys are much more likely to report corporal punishment occurring at school. That’s not a motivational setting.

In the American context, one common solution to address cratering motivation is to increase “engagement,” often through career and technical education, vocational education, and now, personalized learning.

“There are so many moments in vocational education,” wrote Mike Rose in The Hedgehog Review, “when values, ethical questions, and connections of self to tradition and community emerge naturally, ripe for thoughtful consideration.”

Research-based resources from the Jubilee Center help educators work with students to learn about the importance of character in certain professions and of understanding what a flourishing life is, which helps both boys and girls to keep the big-picture goals of their daily actions in mind, and gives them something to learn for and to live for.

U.S. Department of Education prioritizes formation of “thoughtful, productive” citizens

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is prioritizing formation of the whole person, including citizenship education.

The U.S. Department of Education recently posted 11 priorities for use in the government’s discretionary grant programs that cover a variety of educational issues, from school choice to more efficient use of tax dollars to promoting science, technology, engineering, and math.

Priority 4” on the list is “fostering [the] knowledge and promoting the development of skills that prepare students to be informed, thoughtful, and productive individuals and citizens.” The Secretary of Education’s priorities, published in the Federal Register in mid-October, explain why it’s critical for schools to help students develop good character and a strong sense of citizenship.

“Research suggests that self-regulation, perseverance, and social skills play an important role in students’ academic, career, and life outcomes,” the notice states. “Unfortunately, national assessments suggest that our students often lack such skills.”

According to the Education Department, the average scores of 8th graders on the National Assessment of Education Progress civics test only increased by four percentage points between 1998 and 2014, and remain far below proficiency.

“Additionally, numerous international studies indicate our nation’s students are not performing as well as students in other countries. On the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), 15-year-old students in the United States performed near the . . . average on financial literacy and slightly better than the . . . average on problem solving,” according to the notice in the Federal Register.

A major issue is that a large percentage of 15-year olds—about 18 percent—did very poorly on both assessments, scoring below the second of five levels on the PISA test.

According to the Education Department:

For the United States to compete globally, schools must better prepare students to obtain each of these types of skills. It is especially critical for students to master these skills as the number of jobs created by new businesses has substantially declined since the 1990s. In addition, while the number of business startups has climbed back to pre-2007-to-2009 recession levels, such activity has declined over the long term compared to peaks in the 1980s. Promoting the development of these skills can prepare students for later in life and prepare them for employment or entrepreneurship. This, in turn, will foster a learning society and ultimately boost Americans’ quality of life.

To that end, U.S. Education Department officials are calling on schools to develop projects that target a variety of the “priority areas.”

They include “fostering knowledge of the common rights and responsibilities of American citizenship and civic participation, such as through civics education,” as well as programs that “better prepare students for employment, responsible citizenship, and fulfilling lives” and promote “positive personal relationships with others.”

The Education Department is also looking for schools to help students develop “determination, perseverance, and the ability to overcome obstacles,” and “self-esteem through perseverance and earned success.”

Other “priority areas” involve helping students “control impulses and work toward long-term goals,” and “instruction in time management, job seeking, personal organization, public and interpersonal communication, or other practical skills needed for successful career outcomes,” according to the notice in the Federal Register.

These are certainly skills that employers are looking for, but they must be part of a coherent character that develops virtuous habits of kindness, loyalty, and courage. And rather than simply focusing on developing skills, efforts like the Education Department’s are best when they use the language of character and virtue, which signals that there are standards and commitments outside the individual student that should inform their lives.

“Subjectivity [required for effective character development] has given way to a subjectivism in which the experiences, interests, and sentiments of the autonomous individual are enshrined as the standards defining the height, length, and breadth of moral hope and possibility,” James Davison Hunter wrote in his book, The Tragedy of Moral Education in America.

If we wish to avoid further financial crises, corporate scandals, and social turmoil in schools, the standards of ethics and morality must be rooted in sources that help students understand right and wrong, and help them to make the right decision when it is difficult. Excellent examples can be found in The Content of Their Character: Inquiries into the Varieties of Moral Formation, as well as the Jubilee Centre’s character education framework.

“The NED Show” at MLK Elementary (Youngstown, OH) points to habits of kindness

A recent character education presentation at Youngstown’s Martin Luther King Elementary School is helping young students understand the benefits of being nice, and some are already grasping the snowball effect the lessons could have on the school’s culture.

The October presentation underscores the importance of character education in schools. It also provides an avenue for expanding lessons to encourage students to learn from each other.

Youngstown students in kindergarten through 5th grade met with yo-yo aficionado Chad Adams and NED—the star character of The NED Show and acronym for “Never give up, Encourage others, and Do your best,” The Vindicator reports.

Throughout the roughly 45-minute assembly, the characters engaged students through yo-yo tricks, humor, and stories about good character to illustrate important concepts like focus and persistence, kindness and shared learning, and diligence and excellence.

“After the assembly, educators have access to our extensive collection of resources. The lesson plans, videos, and classroom activities center upon NED traits and easily integrate into existing curriculum,” according to The NED Show website. “The excitement begins with the assembly and continues year round to promote a culture of kindness and excellence at your school.”

King Elementary counselor Kristen Campana told The Vindicator that officials chose The NED Program to promote good behavior and “instill good traits in our students as early as possible so they can all grow and be successful in all aspects.”

Students who attended the assembly quickly recognized the potential the lessons have to reduce bullying.

“People need to start being nice,” 5th-grader Trent Young said. “We are all the same here.”

Other insightful students, like 3rd-grader John Barden, pointed to another big benefit often highlighted by character education advocates.

“You should show younger kids to be nice so that when they’re our age, they’ll continue to show kids younger than them to be kind,” Barden said.

Barden’s comment shows he understands the importance of cultivating habits in students when they’re young so they can be kind without thinking twice about it.

That’s the essence of character education, and it’s a foundation that schools should build on and infuse in the school community.

To help students dive deeper into the ideas planted by The NED Show, a lesson on kindness suggests that teachers help students to “visualize the community-building effects of practicing kindness.” Older students can often mentor their younger schoolmates to begin developing kindness habits early.