Character And Values Are Both Important 
by Alex Saitta 
December 13, 2007 
Last month the Pickens County School Board passed policy IHAK - Character Education. As a school board trustee, who believes traditional morals and values are the foundation of much of the success we've had in America, this policy was a small first step in what I hope is a series of steps in this direction. 
Character includes such traits as: honesty -- telling the truth; trustworthiness -- doing what youíll say youíll do; dependability -- being relied on by others to do what is asked of you.  
Winning values, or what a person finds as important, matter just as much. For example, does a student value his studies more than listening to his iPod and buying the latest Brittany Spears CD? Do students admire soldiers who serve to protect our country more than Jennifer Anistonís red-carpet dress?  
The math is simple, solid character + winning values = good behavior.  
The teen-age demographic is a lucrative one, so the entertainment industry aggressively targets teens with TV programs, movies, video games and music. Unfortunately, what the entertainment industry is selling of ten contains character-less characters whose values are upside down, so they're giving teens a steady diet of poor role models.  
Today, the "good guys" in the movies do bad things through the 120 minutes. If the action movie "hero" isn't shooting or hitting someone, he's running them over or throwing them off a cliff. In teen-age comedies, those drinking, dropping out, cursing up a storm or having sex are the "cool kids" on the block while those who get straight A's are the nerds. 
Responsible parents or not, our children are being influenced by what the entertainment industry is dishing out. Children lack the experience in life to know such lack of character, upside down values and harmful behavior will lead them nowhere, so many just repeat what they see. In some cases it becomes who they are, engrained in their character and value system. This makes it more difficult to teach them in school.  
Recently a teacher said to me, in elementary school the students are like sponges. When they reach middle school, many students become consumed with their cellphone, their myspace page, the Aeropostale clothes line or the latest American Idolís hairdo. Education drops down their totem pole of whatís important. 
Marketers and the entertainment industry will continue their full court press on our teens -- there is too much money in it for them. As parents we can do our best to shield our children, but unless you live in a cave, there is only so much parents can do. 
I think our schools can help. Iíd like to see courses in building character, winning values and appropriate behavior. For example, teach students gambling for a living may work on a cable TV show, but it leads to ruin in real life. And show students the rest of the story, like how the teens in the movie, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, by now would be riddled with STDís or on the unemployment line, while the nerds headed to Harvard, and are managing For tune 500 companies. 
When the Supreme Court threw God out of the schools, it also threw out His moral code along with it. Iíd like to see our schools do a better job of partnering with faith based organizations, maybe in after school programs, that stress character, values and appropriate behavior. Such partnerships exist elsewhere and our school district should look into them. 
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