MEMO From Michael: 9/11, Colombia, New Survey on Education

Thoughts on September 11

Re-experiencing the 9/11 attacks is always a traumatic experience for me. I’ve posted several videos I think you will find worth your time. One cannot think about this shocking proof of our vulnerability without some anxiety and deep sorrow for the loss of life and of our innocent naiveté about our safety. Two images are etched in my mind – the first is the image of the first plane crashing into one of the twin towers and the other is an image of an upside down man falling from the building (he presumably jumped rather than be burned alive) only a second or so before he hit the ground.

That event profoundly changed this nation. It not only ushered in a vast and pervasive preoccupation with security in airports and elsewhere, it also started a chain of events including a decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden and a string of challenges to our democratic ideals — in our prison on Guantanamo Bay, the abuses in Abu Graib and the debates about waterboarding and other extreme interrogation measures (i.e., torture).

In many ways, our current challenges regarding a possible military intervention in Syria to deter Assad from using chemical weapons is one of the outcomes of September 11. Concern about terrorism is a built-in factor in nearly every international discussion.

The questions critical to a decision about whether the U.S. should seek to punish Assad for the use of illegal weapons are many and complicated, but an issue that has jumped out at me is how many politicians and members of the public have concluded that the only justification for intervention is our national security interest. President Obama has made an additional case based on ethics and morality (not self-interest) that any country that has the power to prevent or deter massive human rights violations such as those alleged in Syria also has a moral duty to use that power. I know there is debate on whether what we might do would actually make a difference, but I think the moral question remains: Should the United States be willing to use its might and put its soldiers at risk to prevent atrocities to children and adults on the other side of the world? What do you think?

Character Education in Colombia

I spent nearly two weeks in Colombia laying the groundwork for the introduction of CHARACTER COUNTS! 4.0 to this very large and diverse country. We conducted a training for 3-5 teachers and counselors from each of 9 prominent and prestigious private schools and had meetings with the Secretary of Education of Medellin, the chief aide of the Governor of one of the largest states (they call them districts) and others discussing introducing the full student development program to public schools. I also  spoke to about 300 parents and educators and parents. Responsible Colombians (and there are plenty of them) are especially concerned with issues of violence and corruption and they seem quite dedicated to instilling positive values in the schools. Our primary focus is and will remain the U.S. and its Territories (including Puerto Rico), but it is gratifying to see our message and methods spread.

New Survey on the State of Education in America

This week we are launching a major research effort to assess the attitudes and conduct of educators and students. This is a major undertaking and we hope you will respond to the survey if you are an educator or a parent of a student and that you will help spread the word by encouraging people in your social network to clink on the link and take the survey.

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Comments 2

  1. Dear Michael:
    As a native Colombian and a US citizen for many decades, I am pleased to see your word and work being spread in my native country. Colombians are intelligent, innovative people and the philosophies and principles of Character Counts will make a difference in the education and upbrigingin of young Colombian children. I salute you and your organization for the excellent job you do here in the US and now abroad.
    Respectfully,

    Dora Rivas

    1. Thank you Dora. I found Colombia so very different (in a good way) than I expected. I will keep you informed on our progress there.

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