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At the Center

Capturing the lively discussions, presentations, and other events that make up the daily activities of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

The following postings have been filtered by category Character Education. clear filter
  •  2015 Ethics Camp: Lessons in Building Character in Today's Youth

    Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015 4:45 PM

    The 2015 Character Education Ethics Camp brought together teachers and staff from Bay Area high schools for a four-day workshop. The participants in the workshop each manage after-school programs at their respective high schools, ranging from mathematics clubs to bead making classes. Such programs are aimed at keeping students out of trouble and involved in productive, character-building activities.

    Among the many important topics covered throughout the week were the value systems of teens versus adults, and the thoughts, skills and values that go into the formation of a young person’s character.

    So what exactly is character education? Senior Fellow in Character Education Tom Kostic aptly describes it as the deliberate effort to cultivate virtue. It is everything done in a school that influences the kind of person a student becomes.

    In considering the formation of a young person’s character, Kostic focuses on three main criteria: values, skills, and thoughts.

    A person’s values are largely determined by the different role models he or she has in his or her life. What’s interesting is that traditional role models have changed from generation to generation; whereas many of today’s adults viewed their parents as role models growing up, many kids today find role models in the media, entertainment, and sports.

    Character formation also has much to do with one’s thought processes. The ability to effectively problem solve, reflect on one’s experiences, reference a reliable ethical framework, and think straight are all critical to the development of character.

    Finally, the ability to cooperate with peers, control one’s anger and restrain sudden impulses are just a few examples of skills that will facilitate the growth of a young person’s character.

    True to good workshop form, the sessions were filled with animated conversations, as participants examined how they could each help cultivate the right values, skills, and thoughts in the minds and hearts of their students. Unfortunately, not all educators share the enthusiasm for character education that manifests itself at the Ethics Camp.

    The state of California has a character education code for its schools, but the argument can be made that much more should be done to promote the character of our state’s youth. It has been mandated that every California educator receive a character education manual, and in 2007, October was officially declared “Character Education” month. “But what about the remaining 11 months?” Kostic asked. Shouldn’t character education be emphasized across all subjects, each and every day?

    Character education boils down to creating a culture that calls for us all to be the best people we can be. At Ethics Camp, we see the beginning of that action, engagement and effort.

    The Ethics Camp for afterschool educators was supported by a grant from Goodwill Industries.

  •  At Our Best: Creating a Positive School Culture

    Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 8:37 AM
    Creating a school climate that is conducive to learning, safety, and community was the focus of a presentation by Dotty McCrea, principal of Mercy High School, at the Center’s Ethics Camp for Catholic School Educators, held August 12-15, at Santa Clara University.  The four-day workshop provided an orientation for new teachers in the diocese. 
    McCrea explained that the school’s culture is formed by its core values and beliefs, which drive actions and influence behaviors.  It’s the “subtle spirit” visitors sense when they walk through the door, reflected in the way they are greeted by the office staff, the vitality of the staff, and the engagement of students. 
    McCrea took teachers through a series of exercises to flesh out ways to create a supportive culture in their schools and classrooms.  She talked about rituals and traditions that set up a positive environment, including moments of prayer and reflection.  High expectations were also cited as key to a strong school culture.
    She and the participants brainstormed ways to acknowledge students, parents, and school personnel as heroes for being positive role models of kindness and respect.  They also discussed ways to celebrate and to inject humor into the classroom.

    McCrea urged the teachers to tap into the gifts of all their students for curiosity, imagination, sensitivity, wonder, and joy. 

  •  Building Character Through After-School Programs

    Monday, Jul. 28, 2014 4:47 PM
    Violent crimes committed by young people “occur most frequently in the hours immediately following the close of school on school days,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.  Calling the afterschool hours “prime time for juvenile crime,” the advocacy group Fight Crime: Invest in Kids reports that afterschool programs have been shown to:
    • Reduce juvenile crime and violence
    • Reduce drug use and addiction
    • Cut other risky behavior like smoking and alcohol abuse      
    • Reduce teen sex and teen pregnancies 
    • Boost school success and high school graduation. 
    A new program from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and the East Side Union School District in San Jose is betting that afterschool programs can also help to form student character.
    With a grant from Goodwill Industries, teachers representing four East Side Union high schools spent four days at the Ethics Center.  Teachers offering activities from jujitsu to yearbook worked with Ethics Center character education staff to shape their afterschool activities into programs that can build character, engagement, community, and success.
    Tom Kostic, associate director of character education at the Center, gave the group a grounding in the basic principles of ethics, explaining that to be ethical is to be “the kind of person other people would choose as a study partner, friend, business partner, teammate, confidant, or even life partner.”  Kostic stressed that although people might differ on some thorny ethical issues, most would agree that society should foster the values of responsibility, respect, self-control, integrity, and effort among young people.
    How to instill those values became the focus on four days of workshops taught by Center Character Education Director Steve Johnson and a group of teachers and administrators who are alumni of the Center’s programs.  Johnson focused on the question, “What works?” urging participants to look at the research about what interventions are effective, whether those interventions are efficient, and whether they will meet the real-life needs of their particular students.
    Kristi Hofstetter Batiste, retired teacher, talked about using service learning to build character.  In service learning, teachers send students out into the community to participate in meaningful community service and also provide opportunities for students to reflect on and learn from these experiences. Exposure to community needs fosters compassion, and students develop responsibility as they address those needs.
    Another focus of the program was building a community to support character.  Wendell Brooks, founder of the BDK Foundation, outlined eight “Habits of the Heart,” which he uses in his work with at-risk youth in Orange County, Calif.   Drawn from a book by Clifton Taulbert, the eight habits are:
    •  Nurturing Attitude                 
    • Dependability
    • Responsibility                        
    • Friendship
    • Brotherhood              
    • High Expectations
    • Courage                      
    • Hope
    The Center’s work with East Side Union grew out of a concern on the part of Goodwill to find interventions that might work to impact bullying, according to Bruce Shimizu, director of Goodwill’s youth programs.  “We hope to start impacting kids and parents in a positive way so that we can make a dent—make kids more aware of their actions and more apt to change to positive behaviors.  If some of these kids go tell other kids, maybe that spreads.” 
  •  Give a Child a Book

    Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013 10:27 AM

    The Ethics Center is proud to launch Donate A Book Now - Build Character for a Lifetime, a month-long project for December 2013, in collaboration with Giving Tuesday, a national nonprofit giving program for the holiday season, with nearly 3,000 participating organizations. The Center serves thousands of children throughout the country through "Character-Based Literacy," a program which embraces literature to teach ethics. You can help children in some of the nation's poorest schools become good citizens with great character.  Purchase a book, or several, and help children learn learn values while learning how to read and write. The special curriculum is also used at many court community and juvenile hall schools, allowing those with challenging circumstances to grow and learn. Fifty-five books are available for purchase, from classics such as "Of Mice and Men" and "The Pearl," to other important literary works on crucial topics such as segregation and the immigrant experience in America. Please include your name and contact information with your order so we can acknowledge your gift! (*Note: this is an in-kind gift program, and not tax-deductible.)

  •  Ethics is Newsworthy

    Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013 4:46 PM

    Remember the days when you cut an article you didn’t understand very well out of the daily newspaper and brought it to share during “Current Events” at school?  Those days are over. 

    Newsworthy, a free daily e-newspaper produced by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, provides students and teachers with a daily compendium of news stories culled from different publications.  
    More important, Newsworthy helps students understand current events by providing a daily lesson plan for middle or secondary school teachers that “highlights the ethical issues behind the headlines,” says Steve Johnson, director of Character Education at the Ethics Center.Within a single week, students may delve into ethical issues around international diplomacy, local government, or new technology, to name a few.
    Newsworthy responds to changes in the language arts brought about by the new national core curriculum.  Under the new core, English teachers will have to add informational texts to the literature they have been teaching.  Newsworthy offers a step-by-step guide to teaching news articles while meeting the core standards.
    The program also fills a gap identified by principals when Ethics Center staff visited schools that use the Center’s popular Character-Based Literacy (CBL) Curriculum.  Tom Kostic, who writes the Newsworthy lesson plans, explains: “A lot of principals want to do something about character education, and they also want to do something useful with the time kids spend in homeroom or advisory period.  Right now, everybody just sits there.”  Newsworthy allows homeroom teachers to make better use of that time by engaging young people in a discussion about current events and the ethical issues they raise.
    Each daily plan deals with:
    ·       Outcomes
    ·       Words and Ideas
    ·       Story Comprehension
    ·       Analysis
    ·       Writing
    Teachers can use Newsworthy with any relevant course, start at any time, and fit the material as they choose into their curriculum.  For instance, a social studies instructor may center a whole period around the daily topic, or an English teacher can devote a portion of one class, while a teacher’s aide can make this the focus of study hour in between classes. 
    The material uses the techniques of the CBL Curriculum and is already in use by CBL subscribers.  Anyone can subscribe to Newsworthy free of charge.  The development of Newsworthy was supported by a grant from the Markkula Family Foundation.
  •  New Faith Formation Curriculum

    Friday, Sep. 13, 2013 1:16 PM
    The moment has come in the Mass for the readings.  You look down the row as the reader begins a passage from Malachi or Thessalonians or Luke.  Are the children listening raptly to the word of God? More likely they are squirming in the pew, poking a younger sibling, whispering, or daydreaming.  The biblical language and concepts have left them behind.
    But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Steve Johnson, director of character education at Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, says these ancient texts can speak very directly to kids—with the help of the Center’s new faith formation program, Build. Plant. Grow. 
    The curriculum pairs the Sunday readings with a classic children’s book and uses both to highlight a virtue that anyone can practice.
    Build. Plant. Grow. takes its title from a passage in Jeremiah:
    Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce...multiply there and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare, you will find your welfare.
    According to Johnson, the curriculum “is a faith formation program for people of any age who build, plant, and grow the word in their lives. It’s especially for use in schools and parishes as children break open the word each week.”  The online curriculum provides weekly lesson plans that suggest how people can, as Johnson puts it, “live our daily lives as Christians at our best.” 
    An illustration:  The lesson plan for the third Sunday in September looks at the value of compassion in Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss and a passage from the Gospel of St. Luke, which includes the story of the good shepherd who goes in search of one lost sheep.  Participants—both young and old—are encouraged to care for every each individual regardless of their status—as Horton puts it, “A person’s a person no matter how small.” The curriculum then asks how caring and compassion can be put into action by, for example, providing items for distribution to the needy at the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
    Anthony Mancuso, S.J., chaplain at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, Calif., wrote many of the lesson plans for Build. Plant. Grow.  “I took the readings for each Sunday and pulled out a connection between them, often a word related to a virtue, such as justice or courage,” he said.  Mancuso tied that idea to a children’s book dealing with the same theme, which “allows the ethics to come alive for a younger mind.”  The lesson plans also offer hands-on activities, with different approaches sensitive to the different ways children learn.  Another section, called “What can I do today?” asks children to take concrete actions based on the virtue they’re learning about.  Finally, the lesson concludes with a prayer.

    Build. Plant. Grow. is intended for use by Catholic school and parish religion teachers and by parents who want to engage young people in the Gospel message in a way that is relevant and vital. 

  •  Restorative Justice in Schools Provides Framework for "Getting Behind the Hurt

    Friday, Jun. 28, 2013 11:21 AM

    “The Person is Not the Problem…the Problem is the Problem,” stated Mary Kindig and Dan Sackheim, keynoters at the June 27th Third Annual Catholic School Principals’ Institute, a program of the Ethics Center and the SCU Department of Education, in collaboration with the Diocese of San Jose.

    Kindig has a masters in social work from Columbia University and is Program Development Consultant with the Restorative Schools Vision Project. Sackheim is a consultant for the California Department of Education. The speakers explored a number of key concepts surrounding restorative justice, primarily focusing on the three distinct stakeholders in a scenario where harm has been done: the community, the offender, and the victim(s). Harm, in this context, is defined as bullying, incidents of violence or acting out, or any disruptive behaviors by students from kindergarten age and up.

    The restorative approach essentially focuses on understanding the harm done, and developing empathy for both the harmed and the harmer; reintegrating the harmer back into the community as a valuable contributing member; and implementing customized systems into schools such as planning, training, and focus groups, all of which recognize parents, students, teachers, and potentially clergy as key players and decision makers. It also focuses on greater accountability on the part of the school and the community when an act of harm has taken place, and innovative and interactive models as solutions.

    Kindig and Sackheim identified challenges such as the role of parents, teachers, and clergy in healing and moving forward; the role social media plays both in exacerbating incidents and potentially providing healing (by replacing negative posts with positive ones); and how to best embrace new and progressive definitions of discipline, self-discipline, and forgiveness. The challenges struck a cord with the audience of educators, many of whom had experienced or witnessed incidences of harm.

    The speakers contrasted the restorative justice approach with a more traditional model.  In the case of harm, the tradition approach would be to ask: What rules have been broken? Who broke them? What punishment do they deserve? The restorative model asks: Who has been hurt? What are their needs? Whose obligations are these?

    What does the model for restorative justice in schools look like in action? Regularly healing circles in which all parties engage in healthy communication would be one example. Contracts between students, teachers, and administrators that describe acceptable behaviors are another. Finally, traditional disciplinary measures are still a fall-back option in some scenarios.

    Mary Kindig serves as the Program Development Consultant for The Restorative Schools Vision Project, which brings restorative justice philosophy into schools as a solution to high rates of student expulsions and suspensions.  Dan Sackheim is Education Program Consultant, California Department of Education.

  •  Impact of the Center's Character Education Program

    Friday, May. 31, 2013 9:04 AM

    A special education teacher describes how her involvement in the Markkula Ethics Center when she was an undergraduate changed the course of her life.  Griselda Renteria, now a special education teacher in the Cupertino, Calif., school system, began working with the Center's Character Education Program when she was a freshman at SCU.

  •  Character Education Training

    Tuesday, May. 28, 2013 11:44 AM

     The Center's Character Education Program offers basic training in its Character-Based Literacy Curriculum in Bishop, Calif., at a daylong workshop June 14.  The training targets teachers, counselors, and administrators in alternative, special, and correctional education programs for at-risk students and juvenile offenders.  

    The program will cover:

    Essentials and Themes of CBL
    Introduction to CBL lesson plans
    CBL Reading Lists
    and other topics

    To register, or for more information, contact School Programs Manager Kim McCauley at

  •  National Standards for Catholic Schools

    Friday, Mar. 15, 2013 2:00 PM

     Lorraine Ozar, founding director of the Loyola University Center for Catholic School Effectiveness, met today with local Catholic school educators about the first National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools, developed by her center in collaboration with the Roche Center for Catholic Education (Boston College) and the National Catholic Educational Association. This landmark document offers critical school effectiveness standards to more than 7,000 schools across the country. 

    The Ethics Center's Character Education Program offers curriculum, which integrates ethics and the language arts, tied to these national standards.  Ozar is a 35-year veteran in the field of education as both a teacher and administrator.  She was the recipient of the 2010 F. Sadlier Dinger Award for distinguished leadership and outstanding contributions to Catholic education, and the 2011 NCEA C. Albert Koob award, which recognizes individuals who have greatly impacted the national standard of Catholic education.