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Character Counts! Teaches Good Ethics To Students
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The idea of teaching youth good ethics rather than just insisting they "be good" is often a novel concept, but some people are out to change that.
Several 4-H programs around the state are teaching basic ethical values to build character in today's youth. These programs include livestock ethics training, Lee County horse camp and the 1996 junior and senior leadership conferences.
Character Counts is a 5-year-old nonpartisan character education program developed by the Josephson Institute of Ethics. 4-H is a coalition member of this program built around the six ethical principles of trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
Diane Neal, extension 4-H youth agent for Leflore and Sunflower counties, has been teaching these principles in all her programs.
"What I really hope to accomplish is to build self-discipline," Neal said. "Adults tell kids to be good, but many children don't know what that means.
"I know the behavioral problems we have with youth, and I'm trying to introduce the pillars of character so the children can teach themselves how to stay within certain guidelines and avoid trouble."
In May, Neal introduced Character Counts with a bicycle safety course she taught at Moorehead Middle School in Sunflower County. Making the connection between bicycle safety and value education was easy for Neal.
"Before we can ride our bicycles on the city streets, we need to learn respect for others, then we learn the rules," Neal said.
She also taught the students to be responsible for their actions as they ride.
"The main pillars I focus on are respect and responsibility, but we also talk about trustworthiness and the other pillars," Neal said. "And even though we're doing bicycle safety, we talk about how the students are supposed to behave in school."
Dressed in her biking outfit, gloves and helmet and with her bicycle beside her, Neal caught and held the students' attention. They learned about bicycle safety, and listened while she taught them ethics and social responsibility.
In addition to the bicycle safety classes, Neal has taught the Character Counts program to 4-H'ers, the Communities and Schools outreach program and the Boys Club in her area.
In mid-October, she started a six-week in-class program at Threadgill Junior High School in Greenwood. For one hour a week, Neal will teach the six pillars of character to these students. This is her first time to teach a long-term Character Counts program.
"When I've done the short programs, you can see the focus in their eyes as they learn there's another way to handle things," Neal said. "When youth learn about these ethical values, you awaken a sense in them that wants to do better and be better."