WORTH READING: THE ASPEN DECLARATION. In July 1992, the Josephson Institute of Ethics hosted a summit in Aspen, Colorado bringing together ethicists, educators and youth-service professionals to identify shared ethical values that could be the foundation of character education programs. The result was the Aspen Declaration, the seminal document for the CHARACTER COUNTS! movement which presently engages about 7 million children and families worldwide. (click to see the Declaration)

Click to see 12′ x 25′ mural by Nadi Spencer at Monson Sultana School in Tulare County, CA

The Aspen Declaration consists of eight core beliefs about the nature and importance of character:

  1. The next generation will be the stewards of our communities, nation and planet in extraordinarily critical times.
  2. In such times, the well-being of our society requires an involved, caring citizenry with good moral character.
  3. People do not automatically develop good moral character; therefore, conscientious efforts must be made to help young people develop the values and abilities necessary for moral decision making and conduct.
  4. Effective character education is based on core ethical values rooted in democratic society, in particular, respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, justice and fairness, caring, and civic virtue and citizenship.
  5. These core ethical values transcend cultural, religious and socioeconomic differences.
  6. Character education is, first and foremost, an obligation of families and faith communities, but schools and youth-service organizations also have a responsibility to help develop the character of young people.
  7. These responsibilities are best achieved when these groups work in concert..
  8. The character and conduct of our youth reflect the character and conduct of society; therefore, every adult has the responsibility to teach and model the core ethical values and every social institution has the responsibility to promote the development of good character.
Read more about the Aspen Declaration and about the CHARACTER COUNTS! program that it spawned.
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