The Six Pillars of Character:
Who Developed the "Six Pillars of Character"?
The language itself came out of a summit conference on character education convened by the Josephson Institute in 1992 in Aspen, Colorado. The diverse group of educators, youth leaders and ethicists who gathered there to investigate ways of working together agreed unanimously that these six values are clearly central to ethical people's lives, regardless of their differences. Whose values? Some 40 states and almost 1,000 cities, counties, school districts and chambers of commerce (plus the President, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives) have endorsed CHARACTER COUNTS! and its "Six Pillars" approach to community-wide character education.
Teaching Children About the "Six Pillars of Character":
The most important thing that children should take away from character development training is that:
The teacher's role in character education is to introduce a lesson/topic of the "Six Pillars" one at a time. Dr. Borba, author of Character Builders, says there are five steps to building these character traits. The first is to target the desired behavior for 21 days. The second is to define the needs and values of the trait. The third step is to teach what the trait looks like and sounds like. The fourth is to provide structured practice for 21 days. The fifth is to reinforce the trait through immediate feedback and encourage uses for the trait in life.
- Their character counts and their success and happiness will depend on who they are inside
- That people of character know the difference between right and wrong and that these people use the "Six Pillars of Character" as a guide to their thoughts and their actions.
Building character in children can also be reinforced through the use of visual and activity tools throughout the day. Posters, activity books and other small, creative and fun ideas can make this a project in which kids want to participate!
Once the process of character building has begun, the Josephson Institute suggests teachers and parents:
- Be Consistent. The moral messages you send must be clear, consistent and repetitive. Thus, everything you say and do, and all that you allow to be said and done in your presence, either reinforces or undermines the credibility of your messages about the importance of good character. Be as firm and consistent as you can be about teaching, advocating, modeling and enforcing these "Six Pillars of Character". The intention is to foster the virtues of good behavior via constant "teachable moments".
- Be Concrete. Building character and teaching ethics is not an academic undertaking, it must be relevant to the lives and experiences of your children. Talk about character and choices in situations that your children have been in.
- Be Creative. Effective character development should be creative. It should be active and involve the child in real decision-making that has real consequences. Games and role-playing are also effective. Look for "teaching moments," using good and bad examples from TV, books, movies, and the news.
Summing It Up:
Dr. Kevin Ryan outlines the teaching of character development education best in his article, The Six E's Of Character Education:
The end result of character development education: Children who, as adults, will contribute to the community, and whose moral leadership, values and citizenship will make the world a better place.
- Example. Example is probably the most obvious way to model character education. Another method for moral modeling is to teach the moral truths embedded in literature and history.
- Explanation. We need to practice moral education by means of explanation - not simply stuffing students' heads with rules and regulations, but engaging them in great moral conversations about the human race.
- Exhortation. Used sparingly and with explanations, helps children and employees understand that a a good student or worker is someone who makes class contributions, does homework and assists other students."
- Ethos. Providing an ethical environment - climate within a classroom promotes a steady and strong influence in the formation of character and the student's sense of what's right and wrong.
- Experience. Providing students both in-and out-of-school opportunities to serve.
- Expectation of Excellence. Excellence in school work and behavior will encourage students to develop qualities like perseverance and determination, and those virtues will affect every aspect of the children's lives as they mature.