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Teaching Content, and Character

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The AIG fiasco and the uproar over those executive bonuses might provide a timely opportunity for talking about character in the classroom. But it might be more difficult to integrate lessons on morality and ethics day to day, particularly at a time when many educators are hesitant to cover issues that can be colored by personal values and beliefs, and therefore open to misinterpretation and conflict.

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So I was intrigued by an announcement from the Josephson Institute that its Center for Youth Ethics is now offering free online lesson plans. The Los Angeles-based institute runs the Character Counts! program, perhaps the largest character education program in the country, works with teachers and schools to set and meet curricular and behavioral goals.

The Web site now offers lessons across the curriculum, searchable by subject and age group, and aligned to state standards. While the lessons are grounded in subject-area content, they aim to promote values that most people would agree upon (without any religious or political bent): caring, citizenship, fairness, responsibility, respect, and trustworthiness.

A lesson on forest fires, for example, requires high school students to explore how physical conditions like the slope and density of the forest, might effect how the fire spreads. But it also infuses discussions about responsibility and the consequences of careless behavior.

I wonder if they have a version for grown ups?

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While it might be difficult to talk about character in the classroom, students do seem to respond well to something more personal than a textbook lesson.

With the Courage Curriculum, for example, students really connect with Max's story and the stories of the children in the books. They are then able to relate events from their own lives that reflect the lessons - both academic and otherwise - they've learned in the classroom, all while meeting state standards.

Maybe the problem was taking character and content out of the classroom in the first place.

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