Disarming Love

The images are first chilling and then touching—a large gun, and then a long embrace.

The surveillance video released last weekend has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. It shows a scene from May in which Keanon Lowe, a security guard and football coach at Parkrose High School, took a loaded shotgun from then-18-year-old Angel Granados-Diaz and then wrapped him in a hug.

Granados-Diaz planned to kill himself that day—at school rather than at home so that his mother would not find his body. Lowe, having heard about “suicidal statements” made by Granados-Diaz, showed up in the student’s classroom right before Granados-Diaz arrived, carrying the gun under a long coat. Granados-Diaz tried to fire the gun on himself, but it did not discharge.

“I saw the look in his face, look in his eyes, looked at the gun, realized it was a real gun, and then my instincts just took over,” Lowe said. “I lunged for the gun, put two hands on the gun.”

As the recently released video shows, Lowe removed the gun from Granados-Diaz and handed it off to another teacher nearby. Lowe then wrapped his arms around the student, who began to cry. For a few moments, Granados-Diaz struggled against the embrace of Lowe, but then returned it.

In those moments, said Lowe, they had a conversation.

“Obviously, he broke down and I just wanted to let him know that I was there for him,” Lowe said. “I told him I was there to save him—I was there for a reason and that this is a life worth living.”

Lowe’s response is a striking model of character in at least two way. First, he showed the courage to act without thought for his own safety. Concerned for the well-being of Granados-Diaz and the other students, Lowe deliberately put himself in harm’s way for their sake.

And then, rather than responding with force and censure—which would have been understandable given the degree of risk Lowe had just faced—Lowe extended compassion and care. Granados-Diaz would later receive legal penalties associated with weapons possession, but in this vulnerable moment, Lowe led with love.

Every teacher interacting with a student who is breaking the rules faces this same double crossroad. Will we have the courage to confront the misbehavior—to call it out, to disarm it—for the child’s sake and others’? And at the same time, will we have the compassion to see beyond disturbing conduct and embrace the student who acts out from a place of pain? To keep showing love even when a child tries to push us away?

Lowe would not have been a good security guard had he failed to act on the threat; it is not loving to ignore destructive behavior. At the same time, the life of Granados-Diaz might be radically different had Lowe not responded with powerful, inescapable kindness.

Students are watching the educators around them. They imitate the way we treat our colleagues—and also the way we respond to those who act out. May we model both courage and compassion as we engage the often-hurting students around us.



Prisoners model generosity with bicycles

This article was originally published on Jan. 4, 2018. It has been updated with new artwork.

In this time of giving when many Americans look to support their favorite charitable causes, they frequently choose non-profits that provide toys to children of prisoners. However, this year in Bermuda, five prisoners defied expectations by repairing and restoring bicycles as gifts for children, according to the Royal Gazette.

The five men are serving time at the Westgate Correctional facility, and they’re making the most of their rehabilitation period. They are members of the prison’s “Lifeline” group, which provides inmates the opportunity to give back to their community. Gina Ingham, a volunteer coordinator working on the project, described it as “the perfect example of restorative justice.”

This past December, that work included refurbishing several bikes so that local children could enjoy them as early holiday presents. The project has been active for five years and many are quite pleased with it, from the prison administration, to local educators working with the children, to the prisoners as well.

A special ceremony was held in which the prisoners greeted the new cyclists and witnessed their subsequent expressions of joy. Mr. Roberts, one of the prisoners, said of the ceremony, “I’m a big man and I had to turn away because I had a tear coming . . . That’s the excitement.”

Roberts added, “It uplifts me knowing that I am giving something to somebody who really appreciates it and really loves it.”

The redemptive power of the experience is clear, as he says, “We’re doing this from our hearts, we’re helping children who are coming up and we don’t want them to make the mistakes we’ve made.”

Aside from the presents, the children involved received a valuable lesson in compassion. Those receiving the gifts come to know the men as human beings, capable of love, service, and generosity—far from the stereotypes of prisoners in poplar media. The prisoners themselves had the opportunity to build and express these very virtues through their work refurbishing and gifting the bicycles.

It may be natural to have a reflexive response to the situation: Who lets prisoners visit a school to give bikes to children?! Lisa Lorish, an assistant federal public defender in the Western District of Virginia, treats that concern in her essay, “Once and Always Criminal?” in The Hedgehog Review. She confronts this sensibility, our “unspoken presumptions of America’s criminal justice system [yet not confined to America]: once a criminal, always a criminal. This presumption too often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because of the collateral consequences those with criminal convictions face after release from incarceration.”

When children see redemption in real people, it shapes their moral imaginations. For high school English teachers who have the capacity and opportunity to teach it, there are few works that illustrate redemption like Les Miserables.

N.J. kids helping again with Christmas food drive

This article was originally published on Dec. 25, 2017. It has been updated with new artwork.

Students in Delano, N.J. have partnered with the Knights of Columbus for well over 20 years to collect food for struggling local families during the Christmas season.

This year is no different, with students at M. Joan Pearson Elementary and Walnut Street Elementary hauling in more than 2,163 cans through early December, an annual exercise guidance counselor Allison Donnelly said helps youngsters develop community spirit and strong character virtues like compassion.

“It helps them give back, and then it helps them realize that there are other people in their community, maybe their next-door neighbors, that do need a little more assistance,” Donnelly told the Burlington County Times.

Donnelly explained that the district focuses on building character in students by promoting a good character trait every month, and the annual food drive fits well with December’s theme of compassion.

“It’s the holidays and we should be helping. And our student character trait this month is actually compassion and caring. So it goes right along with our student character trait—being compassionate, collecting cans, giving to those in need,” Donnelly said.

“It helps families in our area, Riverside, and Delran, so it’s really a great food drive,” Donnelly said. “We love doing it every year.”

Seven-year-old Remy Seiter, who hauls boxed food and cans from his classroom in a little red wheelbarrow at least one a week, told the Times he enjoys helping others.

“Some people don’t have any food, and I just think it’s really nice to donate to them,” he said.

University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter points to the neoclassical tradition of practice-based models of character education in his book The Death of Character.

“The cornerstone of the neoclassical strategy is the Arisotelian argument that virtue is acquired in much the same way as other skills and abilities—through practice,” Hunter wrote.

The approach relies on educators to move beyond posters on a wall to connect repeated action to character virtues, much like the food drive in Delano.

Teachers working to help kids make the connection between words, feelings, and actions will find the stages of developing compassion from the Jubilee Centre helpful as they engage students in meaningful activities like school food drives and other community outreach.

ND community rallies around student diagnosed with cancer

North Dakota’s Dickenson High School volleyball team has a message for senior setter Lauren Jorda: “Her battle is our battle” and “God is within her, she will not fail.”

Those words of encouragement were printed on teal t-shirts and presented to Jorda just a week after she revealed to her teammates that she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and that’s just one of many ways the community has stepped in to help, The Dickinson Press reports.

“It was pretty tough, but we all just told her that we were going to be there for her no matter,” junior Taylor Nelson told the news site. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy for her, so we were just there for her support. It took us all by surprise, but we knew we were going to help her through it.”

In the week between Jorda’s announcement and the Sept. 13 game against the Mandan Braves, her teammates created a fundraiser to sell the shirts online, raising thousands to help with medical expenses. Jorda was brought to tears when she learned about the effort in the locker room, then took to court to find the Braves also wearing the shirts. Nearly the entire student section also wore teal, the color representing ovarian cancer, the Press reports.

“It’s just been cool to see the t-shirts in places you wouldn’t even think of,” senior Madi Eckelberg said. “There’s just been a lot of support.”

In the weeks since, Jorda’s team has raised thousands through shirt sales, while others launched different fundraisers. The Dickinson High School National Honor Society held a bake sale, and classmate Addie Kuehl designed and sold bracelets with Psalm 46:5 to help pay for treatment and expenses.

Dickinson State University’s Nursing Student Association filled a gift basket with gift cards, gas cards and other goodies. Students at other area schools also bought shirts and donated cash before volleyball games.

Jorda has undergone seven surgeries so far to remove the cancer, but the future remains unknown, KXMD reports.

“Grateful is the one word I can come up with because it’s really making a difference in her fight,” Jorda’s father, Tom Jorda, told the Press. “We are basically quiet people, but for this to happen to this level and extent – teams throughout the state reaching out to her, people we don’t even know are reaching out to her because of sportsmanship. You can’t explain it; the nature of people and community is phenomenal.”

No words can express her gratitude, Jorda said.

“There’s really no words to put in to how it really feels,” she said. “I know Dickinson is a tight-knit community; we’re not a big, huge town. So everyone kind of knows everyone and when something happens like this, we just band together. It’s unreal.”

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, points to a community’s moral traditions as a critical element in or how people take action to help others.

Hunter wrote in “The Tragedy of Moral Education”:

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.

The nonprofit Action for Happiness offers resources for parents and educators to help youngsters develop traditions and habits centered on helping others, through kindness projects, volunteer work, activism and other means.

“Action for Happiness is a movement of people committed to building a happier and more caring society,” according to the website. “Members of the movement make a simple pledge: to try to create more happiness in the world around them. We provide ideas and resources to enable people to take action at home, at work or in their community.”

Bullying, health issues inspire 6-year-old to spread kindness online

Illinois first-grader Ayden Cazares knows what it feels like to have a broken heart.

As a kindergartner at Ridge Elementary School in Plainfield, bullies targeted the boy by pulling down his pants, biting him and shoving him off a slide, his mother, Nelly Sainez, told the Plainfield Patch.

What the bullies likely did not know is Cazares was battling a congenital heart defect, for which he underwent surgery in August. The experience wasn’t easy, and while the now 6-year-old is recovering, he’s not sitting around sulking about his situation. Instead, he launched a Facebook page with his mother’s help to reach out to kids less fortunate than himself, to offer encouragement and help make their birthday wishes come true.

Sainez said the family came up with the idea last year when they decided to give away some of Ayden’s old toys to kids in need, and it’s since evolved into “adopting” a family for Christmas and daily video messages of support to kids who write in to the Facebook page, Aiden’s Fulfilling Your Birthday Wish.

“We found a single mom with two boys with autism and gave away toys and clothes,” Sainez said. “It just went from there.”

“He just loves making the videos,” she said.

Aiden said it’s rewarding to give presents to other kids on their birthdays, especially those who have similar stories of bullying.

“I want them to feel happy,” Cazares told CBS Chicago. “If they don’t feel happy, I don’t feel happy.”

The first-grader issued a challenge to his followers for Bullying Prevention Month in October to “be nice to someone and do something for them,” and his constant focus on others is gaining a lot of attention.

The New York-based See the Wish/Be-A-Friend Project highlighted the “6-year-old Upstander from Chicago” and collected encouraging letters from students across the country to offer support.

Through mid-October, the See the Wish campaign had collected nearly 1,000 personal letters from students commending Cazares for overcoming his life struggles and inspiring others to endure through kindness.

“You did so awesome with them, with the boys hurting you,” wrote Jaelen, a student from Texas. “You inspired me to ‘kill people with kindness.’ You are a good role model for people for all ages.”

Cazares’ experience highlights perhaps the most foundational concept of character education.

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, wrote in his book “The Death of Character”:

Implicit in the word character is a story. It is a story about living for a purpose that is greater than the self.

Parents and educators looking to inspire similar selfless kindness can find a variety of resources from The Great Kindness Challenge, an annual event put on by the nonprofit Kids for Peace.

The one-week event can be tailored to schools or families, and uses a checklist to help show youngsters what kindness really means. In 2018, more than 10 million students in nearly 20,000 schools carried out over 500 million acts of kindness in 103 countries during the last week in January.

“The Great Kindness Challenge provided an opportunity for our students to care for each other in ways that went above and beyond their normal interactions,” California elementary school principal Chad Lund said. “As a result, we noticed a real impact on the school’s culture with a decrease in bullying and an increase in compassion, unity and respect.”


School resource officer’s new deputy finds purpose on patrol

Bay Minette, Alabama first-grader Braylon Henson wants to be a police officer when he grows up, thanks to school resource officer Ronald Saladin.

“I noticed his classmates were out there playing and he was in here by himself,” Saladin told WKRG. “I let him come walk with me because he felt left out.”

The 6-year-old was born with a condition known as Ectodernal Dysplasia, which means he was born without sweat glands and cannot go outside when the temperature is above 74 degrees. Teachers know to rub the boy down with ice if he overheats, but his condition means he can’t participate in all of the same activities as his classmates.

“He felt left out, and I didn’t want him to feel left out,” Saladin said. “His mom was afraid he was going to get picked on and bullied when he came to school.”

So Saladin befriended his little partner in August, and the duo have been patrolling the halls of Bay Minette Elementary ever since. Saladin even bought Henson his own mini uniform, complete with handcuffs, hat and badge.

“He would take my stuff but he wanted his own little uniform,” Saladin said.

Henson takes his new responsibility seriously.

“You know what you’re getting, right? A ticket,” Henson told a teacher after he found a pencil on the floor during a recent patrol.

“Hey! I’ll be back,” he warned another classroom.

Teachers told WKRG they’ve noticed Henson’s grades improving since he took on his new role, and it’s obvious his celebrity status on campus boosted his confidence.

“It’s definitely a blessing,” Saladin said, “like it was meant to be.”

The friendship between Saladin and Henson illustrates an important aspect of character education, through both Saladin’s mentorship and Henson’s new-found mission.

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture, wrote in his book “The Death of Character:”

Implicit in the word character is a story. It is a story about living for a purpose that is greater than the self.

Kenneth Shore, a psychologist, author and chair of a child study team for the Hamilton, New Jersey Public Schools, penned a column for Education World about ways educators can encourage students to engage in school.

“As a teacher, you will have greater success spurring a student to speak up if you can figure out why he is reluctant to participate,” Shore advises. “Whatever the reason for his reticence, your role is not to force him to speak; doing so will more likely make him clam up than open up. Your role is to provide a supportive, encouraging climate that helps him feel more comfortable, more confident, and less fearful of speaking up.”


Anti-bullying experts credit NJ anti-bullying laws for creating safer schools

In New Jersey, school anti-bullying coordinators are crediting one of the nation’s oldest anti-bullying laws with helping to keep classrooms safe.

New Jersey passed its first anti-bullying law in 2002 requiring schools to offer anonymous reporting and conduct investigations into complaints. Lawmakers followed up nine years later with an expansion known as the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, which better defined bullying and mandated anti-bullying coordinators at every school, as well as specific timelines and procedures for investigating incidents, the Burlington County Times reports.

Anti-bullying coordinators said the laws provided schools with a blueprint for identifying and responding to both bullies and victims, along with training to help students develop kindness and civic responsibility.

“I think the New Jersey anti-bullying bill of rights does a great job encompassing every area,” Pemberton Township coordinator Rita Jenkins told the news site. “I say we’re fortunate with the big plug with character education. We’re very conscientious to make sure that we’re teaching these responsibilities, and ultimately that will help with the bullying situation.”

And that’s important because according to the data, bullying is a major contributor to school violence overall.

The Times reports:

The FBI’s 2017 guidelines for violence prevention in schools said bullying is often a precursor to school violence, and in 71 percent of instances of targeted school violence, the most common motive among perpetrators was ‘revenge’ for bullying.

New Jersey’s anti-bullying laws put schools, parents, lawmakers, counselors and others involved with students on the same page, while offering opportunities to build relationships.

Pemberton Child Study Team Supervisor Holly Corsanico said stronger relationships between students and adults in schools, in particular, helps to both identify troubled students and prevent them from doing something they might regret.

“I think that’s one of these stemming things with these cases that have occurred is, did they have – could we have prevented it by having connections and having an outlet and someone to speak with?” Corsanico said. “Because you’re really not going to hurt someone if you have a relationship with them, or you’re less likely to hurt anyone if you have some type of bond or connection with them.”

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, highlighted the critical importance of presenting a unified message to students on issues involving character and moral values in his book “The Tragedy of Moral Education in America”:

Moral education can work where the community, and schools and other institutions within it, share a moral culture that is integrated and mutually reinforcing; where the social networks of adult authority are strong, unified, and consistent in articulating moral ideals and their attending virtues; and where adults maintain a ‘caring watchfulness’ over all aspects of a young person’s maturation.

Teachers and parents interested in character education can look to the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues for lessons and resources on a variety of topics. Lessons like “The Virtue of Friendliness and Civility” encourage students to consider the perspective of Aristotle in exploring the impact of their actions on themselves and others.

Thrive charter schools’ unique approach is inspiring students, fueling explosive growth

San Diego’s Thrive charter school network is growing exponentially, from a single location with a class of 45 in 2014 to nearly 700 kids spread across four campuses this school year.

Its rapid expansion comes amid tensions between charter and traditional public schools in the district, but it’s driven by a different kind of educational model that stresses character and a project-based approach to learning that parents can appreciate, according to LA School Report.

“If a hospital were run the way we run schools, it would be like, ‘Welcome to the hospital! It’s MRI day. I know you’ve got a heart murmur, but no problem! We’ll give you a brain scan,” Thrive founder and CEO Nicole Assisi told the education site.

“I feel like that’s how we operate schools: You’ve got a kid with a broken leg, you give him some antibiotics – when in reality, it’s about precision teaching and learning.”

At Thrive campuses – which are adorned with portraits of world leaders and student artwork – each student receives a personal lesson plan to identify strengths and weaknesses, and they work with school counselors to draft a road map to achieve their goals.

Classes are comprised of students in “core groups” based on development, rather than grade levels based strictly by age, and lessons incorporate subjects of math, science, public speaking, character and others into projects that benefit the school, as well as people in the community and beyond.

One recent project, “The Light of Kindness,” involved students engineering, designing and crafting DYI lanterns with LED lights they later donated to Syrian refugees resettled in San Diego. Other projects involved creating their own books, and flying a swarm of drones over their school.

The approach is part of Thrive’s three-part educational model, “which pushes students to learn to learn (using evidence-based instruction to build academic skills), learn to do (developing the skills of collaboration and problem solving through hands-on project), and learn to be (cultivating a sense of citizenship and social action in wider communities),” according to LA School Report.

Olivia told the site the small group setup in her math class has made a major difference in her academics since she transferred to Thrive.

“At my (old) school, we just worked on our own papers. It was just, ‘Here’s the paper, just work alone, stay focused.’ You’d get no help or anything,” she said. “I was behind in math, and my mom thought of Thrive. Here, we work in groups, and our teachers helps us with math. We get to communicate with different people.

“I’ve been getting really good in math, and I’m already getting catched up to third-grade math,” she said.

Other students like Russel discussed how working together to create and complete school projects is building a confidence he’ll need later in life.

“You know how one of the biggest fears in the world is going up and talking to a big crowd of people? That’s what we do on our exhibitions. Parents come up and you have to explain your project,” he said. “And we kind of get used to that, so when we get older, we can just talk about what our new invention is.”

Much of Thrive’s success stems largely from a deep understanding of how students learn, and applying lessons that fit with their strengths and weaknesses.

Sociologist James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture, noted in his book “The Death of Character” that “psychology is in a position to specify the conditions that permit or impede the full realization of a person’s natural creativity, productivity, and well-being.”

The rapid growth in popularity of Thrive schools makes it clear parents flock to schools that get it right.

The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues offers resources for parents and educators looking to help youngsters work through their emotions to realize their full potential.

In the Centre’s “Tools of Virtue” lesson, for example, students learn about identifying their emotions, and how they impact decision making in different types of situations.

TN schools stress importance of ‘upstanders,’ reporting tools in fight against bullying

Tennessee teen Cicela Hernandez has been on both sides of bullying.

After relentless teasing about the way she dressed, hair on her leg, and her family’s financials, Hernandez turned the tables to torment other students to vent her frustrations. She eventually began to lash out in class, and to harm herself in a destructive cycle that also involved sexual abuse in a home she shared with her mother and another family member.

It wasn’t until a sixth-grade teacher stopped to talk to Hernandez about her troubles that she started on a path to recovery that ultimately led to graduation and a scholarship to attend college.

“I really couldn’t control much of the anger I felt inside,” Hernandez told The Tennessean. “He was the first person to ask me, ‘What’s wrong?’”

Hernandez’s story could have ended much differently, and it illustrates the critical role “upstanders” play in the lives of the roughly 21 percent of teenage students who experience bullying in U.S. schools each year, according to the news site.

“If they don’t know how to access help or they feel like nobody cares about them, that’s the worst-case scenario,” said Lauren Dickson, a social worker for STARS, a Nashville nonprofit focused on bullying, substance abuse and violence among youth. “In those situations, problems just get bigger. They can fester.”

Brought to their ultimate conclusion, they can also lead to the types of disgruntled student shootings plaguing schools across the country. And preventing a tragic outcome often rests on the adults in students’ lives, and resources available to help.

Numerous hotlines, available both in person and through text, offer counseling, from the Tennessee statewide crisis line, to the National Suicide Prevention, to the National Sexual Assault Hotline. Schools in Tennessee and numerous other states are also working with anti-bullying apps for smartphones to streamline the reporting process.

But Rodger Dinwiddle, CEO of STARS, contends it’s the adults in students’ lives that can make the biggest difference.

“Dinwiddle talks about the ‘web of five’ confidants for kids,” The Tennessean reports. “This is a group of at least five adults – a teacher, a counselor, a coach, someone in a faith community, an aunt, a grandparent, a mentor – whom a child trusts enough to talk to about any issues they may face at home and school.”

“It’s really important for kids to feel safe with somebody in that school building that they can report to,” he said. “So that if anything happens to them, there is someone there to catch them.”

Dinwiddle explained it’s about developing habits of looking for signs of trouble to intervene before it’s too late. It’s about creating upstanders – rather than bystanders – to bullying and other issues through a new tradition of kindness and compassion.

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture, pointed to the importance of establishing those habits and traditions to prompt people to take action when the time is right.

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

In Tennessee, more than 180 schools have signed up with the anonymous reporting app STOPit to allow students to share their concerns about bullying classmates or other dangers.

“Students are digital natives and many choose to communicate, first, through digital means rather than face-to-face conversations,” Robb Killen, Maury County Public Schools’ supervisor of counseling, said on the STOPit website. “This program meets them where they are … they can, more easily, stand up for each other and create a culture of safety, caring, and respect.”

Las Vegas students focus on kindness, respect on anniversary of deadly shooting

On the one-year anniversary of a deadly shooting in Las Vegas, students in the Clark County School District are spending the week focused on kindness and respect.

Students at Paul E. Culley Elementary School spent October 1 singing Dianna Ross’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and talking about respect and empathy during an event in the school garden, where officials also released doves in honor of the 58 people killed by a gunman at a downtown music festival last year, KLAS reports.

The effort is part of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval’s statewide “Week of Respect” from Sept. 28 through Oct. 2 to raise awareness about bullying in schools, and what students can do to stop it.

“It’s important that we’re all calibrated that we’re all sharing the same message that bullying is not ok at any level,” Charles Sebeck, with Clark County School District’s equity and diversity department, told the television station.

Officials are getting that message across through both school activities and a focused social media campaign with local sports starts, student groups, and others that encourages students to “Be an Upstander.”

“We’ve always engaged the community, but this is the first year we’re using social media as a platform to really … customize our message for different stakeholders,” Sebeck said.

The approach seems to be having a strong impact.

“Being kind means showing integrity, showing empathy,” Culley fifth-grader Veronica Giron told KLAS.

“I stand up for other people; for example, when I feel they’re getting bullied or people are teasing them, I stand up and tell them to not do that,” classmate Amy Martin said, adding that she enjoyed helping to hang more than 1,000 folded cranes in the garden as a “symbol of peace.”

“I was helping with the cranes, and I was helping the teacher doing the cranes and putting the beads on,” she said.

Nevada’s Week of Respect is focused on helping students develop a moral compass through practice and positive role models, both components of effective character education.

“(W)e must acquire a moral sensibility – we learn what is right and wrong, good and bad, what is to be taken seriously, ignored, or rejected as abhorrent – and we learn, in moments of uncertainty, how to apply our moral imagination to different circumstances,” sociologist James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, wrote in “The Death of Character.”

“Over time, we acquire a sense of obligation and the discipline to follow them.”

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds offers a free mindfulness-based kindness curriculum for parents and educators looking to reach youngsters with deeper messages about character.

“Scientists and experts who worked on this curriculum continue to expand the research, which not only includes efforts to replicate our research findings but also to spread them far and wide,” according to the Healthy Minds website. “For example, we had the unique honor of sharing insights from studying the kindness curriculum with Sesame Street Workshop to help shape their spring 2017 season on ‘kindness.’”