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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
  •  Catholic School Standards and Character Education

    Friday, Mar. 15, 2013 12:41 PM
    What makes a school Catholic?  Part of the goal behind the creation of National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools was to clarify that issue, according to Lorraine Ozar, who chaired the Catholic School National Standards Task Force.
    Ozar, director of the Center for Catholic School Effectiveness at Loyola University, Chicago, spoke today at a meeting of Catholic school educators from the San Jose and Oakland dioceses, sponsored by the SCU Department of Education with help from the Ethics Center.  The Center has developed a character education curriculum keyed to the new Catholic school standards.
    Ozar described the standards as a GPS to help build and sustain excellent Catholic schools.  The standards lay out where to go and various ways to get there, but they still require the intelligence of educators and their knowledge of context in order to arrive at the desired destination.
    Included in the standards are defining characteristics of Catholic schools.  They are:
                Centered  in the Person of Jesus Christ
                Contributing to the Evangelizing Mission of the Church
                Distinguished by Excellence
                Committed to Education the Whole Child
                Steeped in a Catholic Worldview
                Sustained by Gospel Witness
                Shaped by Communion and Community
                Accessible to All Students
                Established by the Expressed Authority of the Bishop
    The standards themselves lay out what makes an excellent Catholic school.  These standards are matched with Benchmarks, which describe what a school that meets the standards might look like.
    One standard related particularly to ethics states, “An excellent Catholic school provides opportunities for…action in service of social justice.”  One of the benchmarks of that standard is “Every student participates in Christian service programs to promote the lived reality of action in service of social justice.” 
  •  Character Education in Bering Straits

    Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 11:16 AM

    While people may not all agree on values or what is most important, rarely will people disagree that respect, responsibility, self-­control, integrity, and effort are important values that shape our character and ultimately our destinies.

    The Bering Straits School District in Alaska has adopted the Ethics Center's high school, language arts curriculum (Character Based Literacy), which combines classic and contemporary American, world, government, and Alaskan literature with a research-­based framework that allows students to explore these values, thoughts, and skills in context with their own unique culture. Students are meeting the state’s grade-­level expectations in reading, writing, speaking and listening, language, and social studies with this enriching curriculum.

    Saint Michael students at Anthony A. Andrews School have been enjoying using both art and technology to enhance their language arts learning experiences. After reading Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, high school students created brochures that showcased their research skills and understanding of the Great Depression and other social issues that they had been learning about.

    Other students were simultaneously reading Bud, Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis, also a novel that is set during the Great Depression. Students created a word wall that highlighted the vocabulary that they were learning and a timeline that tracked the novel’s main events. Students listened to famous jazz musicians from the Great Depression and Harlem Renaissance and discussed poetry from Langston Hughes, all in context with one of the novel’s themes: Change Requires Effort.

    All high school students contributed to a rock-­wall poster that they will proudly hang in their school hallway. Each student created 10-­15 rocks of various sizes, shapes, and colors. On each rock students wrote a positive character trait that was being exhibited by a character in the novel that they were reading.

  •  Raising an Ethical Child

    Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012 10:00 AM

    Materials from a Character Education Workshop provide practical tools for meeting the challenges of successful parenting and offer strategies for fostering the moral development of children.  The presentation, by Character Education Director Steve Johnson, offered tiips for communicating values as well as how to teach the coping and cooperation skills required for ethical behavior.  A focus of the talk was how to raise ethical children in a technological age.


    Photo by used under a Creative Commons License

  •  Autism Conference: Social Cognition, Communication, and Transitions

    Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012 10:47 AM

    Six hundred people came together at Santa Clara University last weekend for a conference on current best practices for working with children and adults with Asperger's Syndrom and Autism Spectrum Disorders.  The event focused on recent research outlining social skills practices to facility communication and highlighted new technologies that are making communication easier for individuals with special needs.

    Ethics Center Character Education Director Steve Johnson gave a presentation on "How Religious Institutions Might Better Serve People with Autism."  Other speakers included Carol Gray, director fo the Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding, and Carl Feinstein, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford Univesity and director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

    The conference was co-sponsored by the Ethics Center and the Morgan Autism Center.

  •  Modeling Character

    Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012 1:36 PM
    2012 Ethics Campers

    "Character is who I am today as a result of everything I have become and overcome in my life so far, plus what I become and overcome today." That was the definition of character Steve Johnson, director of character education at the Ethics Center, offered on the opening day of Ethics Camp 2012, a program for teachers on how to integrate character education into the school curriculum. The August 7-10 camp was a special session for new teachers in Catholic elementary and high schools.

    Johnson pointed out that a person's character plays a major role in his or her success, and that schools can inculcate the habits of good character that will serve their students well, not only academically but in their everyday lives. He cited a study of basic habits that increased people's odds of being successful in the workplace. They included:

    • Show up
    • On time
    • Start promptly
    • Follow directions
    • Finish tasks
    • Get along with others

    When the these good habits--accountability and responsibility, for example--become ingrained, they make up our virtues.

    Ethics Camp focuses on showing teachers how to foster the virtues. Where do children learn virtues (or, for that matter, vices)? From role models, legends and heroes, family stories, literature, and other sources, Johnson said. "Whoever spends the most time with a child has the greatest influence on his or her values," he added, warning that today's young people often spend more time with peers and the mass media than they do with parents or other adults.

    In this context, teachers are especially important role models. "The job of a teacher is often counter-cultural," Johnson observed. Insisting on respect, kindness, and honesty in the classroom provides a crucial counterweight to the values children may encounter in the media or on the playground.

    This modeling is not just about teaching a particular content, he went on. "There's an old saying: 'The Catholic school teacher teaches in every breath and glance and move." Johnson stressed that teachers convey their values through how they set up their classrooms. "How can you make sure," he asked the participants, "that what pays off in your classroom are actually the values and behaviors you say are important?"

    Ethics Camp was developed by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University in collaboration with the Diocese of San Jose.

  •  Ethics Camp for New Catholic School Teachers

    Monday, Jul. 23, 2012 12:27 PM

    August 1 is the deadline to register for Ethics Camp for new teachers in Catholic elementary and high schools.  The workshop runs from Aug. 2 through Aug. 10 and includes discussion of practical issues and skills, balanced with time for prayer, reflection, and interaction in community with colleagues.

  •  New Character Education Resources

    Thursday, Jul. 12, 2012 11:51 AM

    Lesson plans for independent study are the newest component of the Ethics Center's popular Character Based Literacy (CBL) program, which integrates ethics into the curriculum.  Detailed lesson plans are available in the language arts, US and world history, and science, in addition to the CBL Leadership program, which combines language arts and history.

    CBL is a subscription program; sample lesson plans can be accessed here.

  •  Bullying Prevention

    Tuesday, Jun. 19, 2012 3:36 PM

    Michele Borba, author, speaker, and educator on parenting, character education, and bullying prevention, addressed The Ethics Center's Catholic School Principals Institute yesterday on how to move children from cruelty to compassion.
    Borba began by defining bullying as intentional cruelty, where a child picks on someone who is more vulnerable, usually repeatedly.  She cited a 2007 study of middle and high school students, which found that one third had been bullied on campus. As reported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development,
    Among high school students, 1 out of 9—about 2.8 million teens—reported that they had been pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on during the last school year, while another 1.5 million reported being threatened with physical harm. In the same survey, 900,000 high schoolers reported being cyberbullied—a newer twist on this age-old problem.
    Borba went on to describe what she called "heart hardeners," seven factors that diminish a child's empathy, which may lead to bullying:
    1. Experiencing trauma, depression, or stress
    2. Lack of face-to-face interaction. Children who spend more time looking at screens than interacting with others don't learn to read social situations.
    3. Raised in a "me vs. we" environment: Increasing competition and a sense of entitlement produces children who have trouble sharing and empathizing.
    4. Coached in cruelty: Exposure to violent TV and video games encourages some children—15% according to Borba—to be violent themselves.
    5. No nurture: "Kids are hard-wired for empathy, but unless you nurture it, it lies dormant," Borba said. Empathy and kindness must be emphasized.
    6. Poor Examples: Are teachers, coaches, and other adults in children's lives modeling how to be a caring person or are they themselves bullies?
    7. Normalizing bullying: When bullying is accepted in the culture, it becomes pervasive.
    To combat these trends, Borba talked with the principals about strategies for combating bullying. Drawing on the work of psychologist Dan Olweus, she outlined essential elements of a successful program:
    • Caring, positive involvement from adults, such as monitoring of behavior by teachers
    • Firm limits on unacceptable behavior
    • Consistent, fair discipline
    • Help for children to improve their behavior
    She shared examples of best practices from schools across the country. One program she described asked children to identify the places at school where they did not feel safe. Many respondents cited the school bus stop. In response, the school deployed a group of student "greeters," who met the bus every morning and welcomed their classmates.
    One school developed a book club for teachers, giving the staff a common language for discussing character education. Another created Kindness Challenge Days, which asked students to do one kind deed each day for a month and track their progress. Class meetings were another popular approach, allowing children to work together and practice how to disagree respectfully.
    More information on Borba's work, including a free download of her "6 R's of Bullying Prevention, is available here.
    The Catholic School Principals Institute, a program of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics in collaboration with the Diocese of San Jose, brings educators together to focus on the issues that challenge Catholic school leaders.

  •  Pushing Past the Achievement Gap

    Thursday, Mar. 8, 2012 1:29 PM

    Gloria Ladson-Billings, professor of urban education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, urges a change in the nation's educational direction from focusing on the achievement gap to focusing on what she calls, "the education debt that we as a nation have accumulated." "How," she asks, "are we going to pay down the mountain of debt that we have amassed at the expense of entire groups of people" who are not served well by the educational system.  She made her remarks yesterday to a group of 175 teachers, education students, and members of the community gathered at Santa Clara University.

    Ladson-Billings is a pioneer in the field of culturally responsive pedagogy and the author of "The Dreamkeepers," a book about successful teachers.

    Listen to the podcast

  •  From the Achievement Gap to the Education Debt

    Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012 3:45 PM

    The achievement gap between white students and other groups on standardized tests is one of the most talked about issues in education. In a presentation March 7, 5 p.m., in the SCU Locatelli Center, Gloria Ladson-Billings, chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at University of Wisconsin-Madison, focuses instead on the “education debt,” highlighting the social, political, and economic factors that disproportionately affect children of color.

    Ladson-Billings talk is free, but reservations are appreciated.