Promoting Lifelong Vaules and Responsibility
Developing character in youth promotes lifelong establishment of positive decisions and responsibility. The purpose of building character is to fortify the lives of our young people with consensus ethical values and the qualities that define a person's character. These values, which transcend divisions of race, creed, politics, gender and wealth, are: Respect, Trustworthiness, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship.
Developing Character is More Important Now Than Ever Before
The problems of our youth have escalated over the past few decades. Sixty thousand young people have lost their lives since 1979 by murder or accidental shootings. Research shows alarming numbers of youth feel rejected, unloved and unsupported. Many feel completely unconnected and believe they have no future. High drug and alcohol use, suicide, unplanned pregnancy, crime, physical abuse, rampant cheating, parental neglect, hopelessness - life in America for many young people has become increasingly grim.
Today our children are exposed to an extraordinary amount of violence, drugs/alcohol, sex, pornography and other forms of anti-social behavior through television, music, movies, advertising and the Internet. At the same time, parenting involvement and support seems to be at an all-time low.
These projections affect the future of our communities and nations as recent research strongly suggests that American youth lack the fundamental attributes and values that are needed to be successful workers, responsible parents and productive citizens.
In this environment, the commitment of adults to be models of good character and spend time with young people can make a difference. Young people yearn for consistent adult involvement, leadership and direction, and when they get it, research shows that at-risk behaviors by young people steeply decline.
What are the Six Pillars of Character?
In 1992 a nonprofit organization called the Josephson Institute of Ethics released a report based on a survey of approximately 9,000 young people, most of who were in high school or college. The findings were alarming: cheating, lying, stealing, drug use, sexual activity, drunken driving and fighting were commonplace. The lack of ethical values in the lives of young people was obvious.
Following this research, a conference of national leaders, educators and clergy was convened in Aspen, Colorado to investigate ways to reverse these negative trends. From this conference, a consensus was formed outlying the need for character development in youth around six core ethical values that could be taught in the home, school, church, and community. From this the Aspen Declaration on Character Education developed the six pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
In 1989, the Search Institute out of Minneapolis commissioned a nation-wide study to identify what assets youth need in their lives to help them make the right decisions and avoid at-risk behaviors. The Search Institute went on to determine what communities could do to help their youth, which launched the Institute's Healthy Communities, Healthy Youth initiative.
Through their research, the Search Institute identified 40 Developmental Assets that are critical to healthy youth development.
How important is it to have some of the 40 Assets?
The more assets young people experience, the less likely they are to engage in a wide range of risky behaviors, and the more likely they are to engage in positive behaviors. Click here to learn more
Youth leadership and character building initiatives offer asset building opportunities for young people that can make a difference in their development into positive, healthy and productive citizens.