Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Can you change a person's character? or ethics?

Yesterday afternoon, I chaperoned a lecture on Character and Ethics given by Michael Josephson, founder of the Josephson Institute. The Josephson Institute's mission is "To improve the ethical quality of society by changing personal and organizational decision making and behavior." It was a pretty interesting talk but I am not sure how many students were actually listening. This morning, Ambookgeek relayed to me that one of our students commented that the ones who should have been listening to the talk were actually just talking to their friends. This made me ask myself, "how much can we really affect the character or the ethical beliefs of the students we interact with? Does it matter? Is it enough? Or do we just do what we can and hope for the best?"
Josephson was a good speaker. I have to commend him for his honesty when he stated that cheaters do win a lot of the time. He did not sugar coat things. He emphasized that, yes, in the short term things will look good, but in the long run, those things will not bring happiness or fullfillment. He also related the current state of the economy and the mortgage crisis and the election with character and ethics. For example, he commented on how mortgage lenders helped bring about the crisis by approving loans that should not have been approved. He showed that ethics and character are relevant outside the classroom as well as inside. During the talk, Josephson also emphasized that individuals needed to make their own way and take responsibility for their own actions.
One of the concepts that stuck with me and maybe some students were the Six Pillars of Character - T rustworthiness, R espect, R esponsibility, F airness, C aring, C itizenship (TRRFCC). An easy acronym to remember when you are faced with a choice between right or wrong. Another point Mr. Josephson made was that he is a big proponent of choice. I have to say I agree with him but for kids, they also need guidance and parenting. I do believe that if a parent has questionable character or ethics, their kids will be the same way.
I am not sure how many students paid attention but hopefully some of the concepts sunk in.

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