Frequently Asked Questions

Why teach character?

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A person’s "character" is the summation of his or her habits, attitudes and attributes. Because those qualities are learned, they can also be purposefully taught. And they should be — because good character doesn’t happen automatically, and it’s too important to be left to chance. The effectiveness and well-being of individuals, their organizations and their society depend on it.

Whose job is character education?

It is always primarily a parent’s job to teach a child how to behave and make wise choices, but other institutions and adults working with young people play critical support roles.

Isn’t ethics relative?

No. There are many areas in which we legitimately differ: politics, religion, sexuality, wealth, ethnicity, personality, ambition. But there is such a thing as right and wrong. In word and deed, we have a duty to teach each other, and especially the impressionable young, that honesty is superior to lying, fairness to greed and caring to callousness.

But what values should we teach?

The ethical values that define good character are pretty basic. We can all agree what they are. The trick is to express them using a consistent language so that messages about ethics and character resonate across the community, from the home to the classroom to the playground to the workplace. The good news is there is broad consensus on six words that are not political or religious and neatly summarize our common values. They are called the Six Pillars of Character.

What are the Six Pillars of Character?

  1. Trustworthiness
  2. Respect
  3. Responsibility
  4. Fairness
  5. Caring
  6. Citizenship

You might remember them by their first letters: T.R.R.F.C.C. … Terrific!
More about the Six Pillars »


CHARACTER COUNTS! was established to promote and teach the Six Pillars of Character. It is today the most widely implemented approach to character education, reaching millions of youth through thousands of affiliated schools, agencies and organizations.

Who is behind it?

The Joseph & Edna Josephson Institute of Ethics — a nonprofit and nonpartisan teaching organization based in Los Angeles, California — established CHARACTER COUNTS! and organized its Coalition in 1993. Many of the country’s leading educational and youth-serving institutions belong to the Coalition, including the YMCA, 4-H, Little League, Boys & Girls Clubs, the NEA and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. The Coalition is guided by an independent, volunteer Leadership Council.

Where does the funding come from?

Members fund and run their own activities. Programs and projects that are administered by the national office in Los Angeles, California, are financially supported by grants, membership dues, fees for training and consulting services, and sales of videos, books, teaching guides and other creative products. Individuals also support Josephson Institute with tax-deductible donations.

Is CHARACTER COUNTS! political or religious?

No. CHARACTER COUNTS! and the Josephson Institute that administers it are strictly nonpartisan and nonsectarian. The people and organizations involved may have diverse views and backgrounds, but they find common purpose in support of character education based on shared ethical values.

Do public officials endorse CHARACTER COUNTS!?

Both Democratic and Republican White Houses have proclaimed CHARACTER COUNTS! Week the third week of October. A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators maintains the Congressional CHARACTER COUNTS! Working Group. And countless mayors and governors have endorsed CHARACTER COUNTS! and its local activities.

Can anyone become a CHARACTER COUNTS! member?

Anyone can be a community advocate for character education and can be a good role model, but membership entails specific commitments. As an alliance of hundreds of organizations, CHARACTER COUNTS! serves as a clearinghouse of programs and publications in the field of values education. Members benefit from this vast resource, as well as from networking opportunities at periodic conferences. More on membership »

What programs and resources does the CC! national office offer?

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