The Commencement Curse 726.1

Millions of teenagers across the land are about to leave the womb of high school for a world full of new freedoms and responsibilities. Although many have been waiting for this event for a long time, eager to get on with their lives as liberated adults, the thought of leaving behind friends and familiar places can be scary. The transition …

Take a Moment to Remember 725.1

As we approach the Memorial Day weekend in the wake of the heightened sense of patriotism and pride resulting from the demise of Osama Bin Ladin, it’s important that we do so with genuine gratitude. Originally called “Decoration Day,” the holiday began with a proclamation in 1868 by General John Logan designating May 30th as a day to place flowers …

The T.E.A.M. Approach to Teaching Character 724.4

I want my kids to be smart and successful, but I also want them to be good. I want them to be the kind of people other parents would like to see their kids marry. I also want them to make sound, values-based decisions that will help them be safe and happy. So, like most parents, I spend lots time …

The Pressure to Win in Sports and Business 724.1

A former successful college coach and athletic director once wrote me a note about the state of college sports. The pressure to win in high-profile schools is so great, he said, that it’s almost impossible to resist rationalizing. When competitors cheat or engage in other unethical conduct, the tendency is to redefine the ground rules for competition rather than be …

The Need for Moral Judgment 720.2

In my book The Power of Character, Dr. Laura Schlessinger writes that her radio show didn’t become a success until she abandoned the nonjudgmental strategy of the traditional psychologist/family counselor and began to challenge, chastise, and encourage her listeners to think of their behavior in terms of right and wrong. Believing that we’re all obligated to discern and honor moral …

Disposition or Discipline? 720.1

Have you heard the story of a shoe company that sent two salesmen into the backwoods? After a few days, both came back. One was frustrated: “It was a waste of time. None of these people wear shoes.” The second was enthused: “Tremendous opportunity here. None of these people wear shoes.” It’s pretty obvious which salesman was more successful, and …

Do Nice Guys Really Finish Last? 719.1

“Nice guys finish last.” This maxim originated with a fiercely competitive baseball manager named Leo Durocher who shamelessly advocated ruthlessness, cheating, and dirty play. It is also used to explain why sweet, thoughtful men lose out to self-centered jerks in the world of dating. Lots of people believe the philosophy applies in business as well. The rationale: Nice is the …

Improving Your Life by Improving Your Mind 718.5

Our abilities to think, reason, and learn are among the most powerful tools we have to make our lives safer, more comfortable, and more fulfilling. Yet many of us don’t develop our mental capacities. Although we can learn important information in school, the wise person in pursuit of self-improvement realizes that education is a lifelong process of expanding our minds …

Firms of Endearment 718.4

A challenge I frequently face while consulting with senior executives and boards of directors of public companies is a belief that their primary mandate is to make profits and enhance shareholder value. Thus, ethical principles like honesty, fairness, and caring are proper guides to decision making only to the extent that they can demonstrably improve profitability or be incorporated into …

Statement of Family Values 717.4

Our values – the core beliefs that drive behavior – determine our character, our ethics, and our potential. Thus, the most important thing we can do for our children is to stimulate them to develop positive values that will help them become wise, happy, and good. This is no simple matter. The first step is to achieve greater clarity about …

The Doctrine of Relative Filth 716.1

In the early ’90s I was asked to spend a full day talking about ethics with the entire California Senate. I was their punishment. Three senators had been convicted the previous year, and voters had passed an ethics initiative requiring legislators to receive education on ethical principles. This was a high-profile, high-prestige program, and I didn’t want to be naïve …

What Are You Pretending Not to Know? 714.4

On a bitter-cold night, a Russian countess was taken to a play in a horse-drawn carriage. Upon arrival, she ordered the driver and footman to wait outside with the carriage in case she wanted to leave early. The play included several emotional scenes, and she was sobbing when she exited the theater and found a small crowd gathered around her …

I Didn’t Want the Janitor to Lose His Job 713.5

The primary responsibility for instilling good values and building character is with parents. This doesn’t mean, however, that teachers and coaches don’t have a critically important role. The unfortunate fact is that far too many kids are raised in morally impoverished settings that foster lying, cheating, and violence. If we don’t give these children moral instruction, many of them will …

We Don’t Need Anti-Bullying Programs 712.5

Though intensive media attention on bullying has died down, the problem persists in many forms, and it continues to diminish the lives of tens of thousands of students every day. According to a recent survey, roughly half of all high school students said that in the past year they were bullied in a manner that seriously upset them. A similar …

Cheating Is Just Wrong 711.3

If you have a child in high school, there’s a pretty good chance he or she cheats at school. In fact, a recent study by the Josephson Institute reveals that 59% of high schoolers admit they cheated in the past year. Yet neither schools nor parents seem to take this seriously. Instead they often tell kids: “You’re only cheating yourself.” …

Experience What’s Left with Passionate Intensity 710.4

Recently, I attended my 50th high school reunion. I had mixed emotions trying to catch up with folks who looked like their own grandparents. I recognized more names than faces, but after a few words I remembered events and interactions when we were all teenagers exploding with hopes and potential. Once I got past my own sense of disbelief, I …

Good News and Bad News 710.3

There’s good news and bad news in newly released data from a 2010 Josephson Institute of Ethics survey of more than 43,000 high school students. The good news is that rates of stealing and cheating dropped about 5 percent since 2008. The bad news is that far too many high schoolers engage in dishonest conduct: 27 percent of the students …