There is a scene in the movie "The Family Man" in which Nicolas Cage is
trying to figure out exactly what supernatural phenomenon has
turned his life upside down. It seems that one night he is a
fast-living playboy in New York City and the next morning he
awakens to two kids and a wife in Suburbia, USA.
Given the chance to travel the road not takenthat is,
marrying the girl he left behind and settling down
to the life of a family manCages character finally
gets some answers from the angel who has arranged his adventure.
The angel appears in the form of a convenience store clerk and
while the two men talk, the angel gives change to young woman
customer. Too much change. After she nervously rakes in the money
as a windfall and scurries out the door, the angel turns to Cage
and says, Whatever happened to character?
Character education is now a common topic of discussion
and is being taught as part of the curriculum in most states.
Parents are beginning to look past academic achievement and becoming
more concerned about what kind of people their children are growing
into. And counselors and other helping professionals are recognizing
the relationship between the whole person and their thoughts,
feelings and behavior as never before. After all, what is character
if not the sum total of a persons values, beliefs, attitudes,
feelings and behaviortheir essence?
Many of us, however, have been teaching the importance of
character and character education for many years. As far back
as the original Active Parenting Discussion Program, published
in 1983, we have been emphasizing the importance of teaching
parents how to instill courage, develop responsibility, and win
cooperation and respect. In fact the Active Parenting model was
developed to teach parents the skills needed to instill in their
children the qualities that will enable them to survive and thrive
in our fast-paced, diverse, high-tech, democratic society.
To this end, in recent years weve also added character
ed programs directed at children. Programs like Free
the Horses and our new Connecting with
Kids video series help educators instill core qualities of
character in their students just as parents work to do the same
Why is character education now the new thing in
education? Maybe its the realization that many intelligent
and gifted individuals have failed to reach their full potential
because of flaws in character. From the damaged presidency of
Bill Clinton to the damaged economy run amuck by dishonest CEOs,
we as a nation are learning that talent and intelligence are
not enough for real success. We need kids with the courage to
tell the truth, to do what is right and to persevere when the
going gets tough. We need kids who value hard work, honesty,
responsibility, caring and a host of other qualities of character.
And we need the adults they will become.
This will take a concerted effort on the part of educators
and parents working together to find the best opportunities and
methods for instilling what is ultimately the integrity to do
the right thing when you think you could get away with doing
the wrong thing. In other words, character.
Be an angel and get involved in character education. The opportunities
Dr. Popkins newest book, Getting Through To Your
Kids: Easy Conversations about Difficult Things (Perigee,
2002) teaches parents communication skills for instilling character
concerning a number of timely topics including courage and fear,
drugs, sexuality, alcohol, tobacco, driving, family illness,
disability and violence.
Reprinted from Leader magazine.
Copyright 2003 by Active Parenting Publishers, Inc.