From the Director’s Chair: The Top Three Myths About Character Education

On an average day, I connect with about a dozen educators. In these conversations, I hear more than a few misconceptions about character education. Here are the three most common myths that I encounter:

1. Your program is not a curriculum, which is what we really need in order for it to be effective.
2. We’re a high school. Our students are too old for character education.
3. We can’t possibly add another program to our already full plate.

Thankfully, these myths are easy to dispel.

All I have to do is point to a collection of schools across the country that buck tradition and prove how effective CHARACTER COUNTS! is — in any environment. In this age of core standards and defined parameters for teaching almost everything, it’s a real breath of fresh air to see schools like this that successfully challenge the status quo.

How do these renegades do it? That’s the best part: there is no single method or answer. They succeed by blending the Six Pillars of Character with the vision and goals of their school and community. They attack traditional barriers and create a school climate that any student, teacher or parent would love to be a part of.

But that doesn’t mean they have to flout state standards or the guidelines of their school or district. They follow the rules for college and career readiness and they maintain high academic standards, but they don’t stop there.

These non-traditional schools focus on developing the “whole child,” and CHARACTER COUNTS! helps ensure that they meet students’ social-emotional needs, as well as their academic requirements. Here are a few examples:

St. Genevieve High School in the Los Angeles area has a monthly program called “Making You Think” in which a panel of students and faculty discuss current events. The whole school watches on closed-circuit televisions in the classrooms. After the show ends, each class has its own discussion. The point is to get students thinking about the decisions people made in each case, and the consequences of those choices.

This is just one of a series of activities this school does as part of its Journeys in Character Education.

Thomas Jefferson Middle School in New Jersey focuses on creating an environment of “inclusion.” See how they celebrate it in this video:

At Thomas Jefferson, Special Ed students blend with the general school population. As one school leader points out in the video, when we wear our green shirts, we’re all showing responsibility and no student is different than the other.

At La Paloma Academy in Arizona, teacher James Sye challenges his students to be “detectives.”

“As a seventh-grade Language Arts teacher, I have several goals. Over the course of the year, my primary goal is to get my students to read like detectives and write like investigative reporters. In terms of including character education, I feel it’s my responsibility to teach my students life skills that revolve around being productive citizens as well as people of high character. CHARACTER COUNTS! is a great tool to model good behavior.”

Read more about it on Mr. Sye’s blog.

In case you haven’t figured it out already, all three of these schools are CHARACTER COUNTS! schools.

By now I hope you’re thinking one of two things: 1.) We do activities like those schools and we can use CHARACTER COUNTS! to make them better, or 2.) Why can’t we do activities like those schools? Either way, we’re here to help support you in creating your own path. And we would love to share your story with our friends and supporters of CHARACTER COUNTS!. Please be in touch!

Jeff McMurdy is the National Director of CHARACTER COUNTS!. He can be reached at 800-711-2670, ext. 805, at or on Twitter at @jrmc57.