A teacher sent us a request recently. “I am,” she wrote, “doing research to find the best character education program. Would you please answer the following questions and/or send information/literature about your program?” She went on to outline specific information that she wanted.

Such a detailed request could not be addressed in a few words, yet it cried to be addressed. It shouted that many teachers could use the same specifics.

With that in mind, I took time to send her a detailed reply.

I’ve presented the reply here, interspersed with her specific outline in red. If this is helpful, please take a minute to let us know. If you have additional questions, let us know those, too. Simply click “Contact Us” on the menu bar above.

I)  Credentials
A)   Major authors
B)   Publishing Company
C)   Year(s) published

While I could list many credentials for you (career teacher/principal for more than 40 years; best-selling author; 10-year old publishing company; new materials continually published for past 10 years; etc.), I believe such an approach will not serve you well.

The proof of value in any product is in the product’s performance, not in the name or description (credentials) of that product. The world is full of authors and publishers with initials after their names. Such credentials describe only in part, and cannot guarantee quality. I know a university’s executive vice president who, holding a PhD in economics and highly respected in his field, is still unable to balance his personal checkbook at age 62. As a principal, both in the U.S. as well as in New Zealand, I found that teachers with stellar credentials are often less capable of actually teaching than are those with nothing more than a B.A. degree. I put no stock in credentials, and urge you not to trust them. Examine the product instead.

II)  Particulars
A)   Average cost of needed materials or kit for class of 30 (for even comparison)
B)   Are there extra items sold as accessories with costs (posters, workbooks, CDs, DVDs, etc.)
C)   Any data of success
D)   What grade levels are serviced
E)   Ultimate goal of the program

A)   Average cost can be determined by spending some time on our website: www.character-in-action.com . Materials vary in cost according to the age group. Since I do not know with what age you are working, I cannot give specific cost information, but that is available on the website. Materials are sold à la carte so you can readily determine what you will need. Basic Level Preferred Membership offers a discount on downloadable materials.

B)   Extra materials such as posters, incentives, awards, videos, and prizes are available and recommended for greatest success, but are not required.

C)   While we have not sought specific success data, we do hear frequently of such success from those using the materials. You can read some of their comments at this link: http://character-in-action.com/about-us/testimonials/ .

D)   We offer materials for every grade level, preschool through high school. At higher levels, we offer a choice between fictional novels and non-fictional how-to materials. The how-to materials are also being used by adults in community organizations.

E)   The program’s ultimate goal is ignored by far too many people. You are to be commended for being interested in it. Our ultimate goal is two-fold: positive, radical, consistent change in the behavior of every student, as well as the fine-tuning of instructors’ personal character.

III) Specifics
A)   Are there word lists for each grade level?  (Example: respect) How many words?
B)   Are there procedures or lesson plans for teachers to follow?
C)   Are there time expectations for success?  (daily, weekly, monthly)
D)   Are there awards/prizes suggested?
E)   Are there different activities for different age levels?

A)   We do not supply word lists. Truly capable teachers are willing and able to put forth the work required to prepare their own word lists from the materials. We do strive to make sure all materials are written at age level. We purposefully incorporate unfamiliar words to challenge as well.

B)   Lesson plans accompany every book (the program’s foundation). These lesson plans include work sheets, tests, crafts, and classroom activities. Basic Level Preferred Membership gives free access to a wealth of additional lesson plans on specific character traits. For example, the “Character-Trait-of-the-Month” Program provides 4 lessons each month, all focused on a single character trait. These lesson plans include two assignments, each at a different ability level. Basic Level Preferred Membership also gives free access to “Quick Prep Lesson Plans”, “Object Lesson” plans, tips on teaching character, and much more.

C)   A single expectation for success covers all of our materials — consistent, daily, lasting morally upright behavior. One cannot set a time for achievement of such results. The desired positive, radical behavioral change is not measurable by the day, week, or month. However, by employing total immersion throughout the school day, success will be attained. We believe very strongly that moral values must be woven into every element of the school day as well as taught specifically. Students must never be allowed to think that character is something you study only in character education class. Committed, diligent application of the program throughout the day will produce consistent, lasting changes.

D)   Awards and prizes sold in our Character “Incentives and Awards” Store number in the high hundreds or even thousands. Each is created to remind students of both the lesson as well as the specific character trait. These are available through Basic Level Preferred Membership . We open this store only to members because the awards and prizes all are sold at our cost. We choose not to make a penny of profit on these.

E)Character education activities are included in every lesson plan, at every age level. In addition, Basic Level Preferred Membership gives free access to more than three dozen additional activities and service activities. Suggestions are given for tailoring activities to varying age groups.

IV)  Your Opinion
A)   Can you list a strength from your program?
B)   What makes your program different/better than other programs?
C)   What do you think is the key ingredient that makes your program:
1  Successful
2  Popular
3  Kid friendly
4  Teacher friendly

A)   You will find the program’s main strength to be its foundation of purpose-written books. For centuries, humankind has recognized the value of teaching through stories. Stories carry truths into the mind in a way that lectures and discussions can never do. One might compare the conveyance power of stories to that of a semi-trailer truck (18-wheeler) and the conveyance power of lectures / discussions to a very small pickup truck. The larger vehicle can convey far more in far less time than can the smaller vehicle. Please note that I make a distinction between our “purpose-written” books and simply drawing character out of books written for other purposes. Picture a fictional book written specifically for the purpose of teaching young people to exercise the courage of their convictions. That book will define the character trait clearly. It will show a lack of the character trait. Then it will display the character trait in action. That is far different from using a book in which the instructor sees courage of convictions, but in which nothing specific is said about that trait.

B)   Our program’s difference, which makes it better than others, is that every character trait is presented as absolute moral truth. We believe that strong, true character rests firmly on absolutes. Relativism is weak, and not permitted in the program. Possible variations are weak, and not presented. Situational ethics is too weak. Our program teaches young people to build fortresses of character with rock-hard blocks of specific traits. Such bulwarks cannot be built with blocks of silly putty. The exercise of responsibility always calls for the same thing, regardless of person, race, religion, gender, circumstances, time, place, etc. Students are never left to sort out their own understanding of, or apply their own definitions to character traits. They are never left to believe that respect can vary from day to day, generation to generation. They are given unbending blocks of character with which to build a strong, lasting wall for life.

C)   Key ingredients affect every aspect of our program.

1)   The key ingredient that makes our program successful is total heart commitment. Every individual contributing to program production is fully committed to making a positive difference in the world’s moral state. That commitment shows in product content as well as quality. That commitment shows in personalized help (such as you are receiving here). It shows in articles and tips, including a 6-month weekly character training e-course that Basic Level Preferred Membership provides. But! Every character education program fails if quality control stops when the product leaves the publisher. Total heart commitment is required on the part of those using the program. Let me be very frank. Lazy, uninvolved teachers who don’t really believe in absolute values and are unwilling for total, heart commitment in building them in young people, will prevent the success of any and every program.

2)    Our program is popular because it is fun and effective. Students and teachers get what they want. Students get lessons that are always exciting, not boring — when the program is used correctly. Teachers get positive, lasting behavioral change — when they use the program as designed. Even parent reaction shows that the program is popular, as they tell teachers how much children love it, and what great, positive changes take place at home.

3)   “Kid-friendly” is often used (not by us) as an adjective for this program. A teacher wrote this morning: “Just wanted to ‘drop in’ to let you know the students loved the crocodile story … Thank you again for all you do!” Books, and stories in lesson plans, form the key ingredient here. Small children love stories. They love animals. When the two are used in tandem to teach character, character education becomes a welcome friend. Older children and teens also like stories. That’s why they attend movies in droves, and watch television for hours. The mystery stories in our program are exciting, page-turning escapades that make kids anticipate character education, not dread it. Teens, even those who bring initial prejudice to the program, fall in love with the teen novels, each of which deals with a hot teen topic interwoven subtly with character training. One 16-year-old head cheerleader wrote that she simply “couldn’t put it down” when she started reading “Date with Responsibility”. What teen wouldn’t like learning responsibility from a book listed as “#1 Best-selling Teen Romance Novel” on amazon.com? Our books make the program kid-friendly

4)   The teacher-friendliness of the program rests on its usability. Let me define usability as that which is effective, efficient, engaging, error tolerant, and easy to

a) Effective: Users achieve the ultimate goal: complete, positive behavioral change. Increased respect eases discipline problems, including bullying. Increased responsibility increases academic success. Increased courage of convictions reduces problematic peer pressure. These are only three examples

b) Efficient: The program packs material into readily-accessed format rather than portion it out in snippets that must be sifted out of discussions / lectures. You might say that the program provides maximum nutrition in one efficient meal rather than scattering bits of nutrition through twenty-eight inefficient meals.

c) Engaging: You get pleasant materials that are satisfying to use from the standpoint of both teachers and learners. You get materials that are attractive and appealing. Teachers don’t have to hire clowns to gain and maintain interest. These materials win and hold attention.

d) Error tolerant: Teachers are human. They make errors. These materials are prepared with an eye to preventing errors caused by the user, and to helping the user correct any errors that are made. Providing clear definitions, for example, helps prevent misleading definitions from teachers, and helps them correct past error.

e) Easy to learn: Finally, program usability shows in the ease of use afforded. Teachers build easily on their knowledge of character. They gain confidence with each lesson, especially as they access the wealth of teaching tips and hints available in the Basic Level Preferred Membership.

Teachers are busy, and while we never condone the lazy teacher who wants everything presented on a silver platter, spoon-fed into his or her mouth, we do believe programs can either increase or decrease a teacher’s burden. The usability of our professionally-written lesson plans and books reduces the burden.

Please take a minute to let me know if this has been helpful.