Most character education programs see work in secondary schools as difficult and problematic because they are trying to fit elementary models into a secondary mold. Because our focus has been and continues to be on secondary schools and secondary students, we transform challenges into opportunities.
Our programs draw upon best practices in education, including student-centered and collaborative learning, and best practices in character education, which call for whole-community involvement in a character education program.
- We enlist students in the character education efforts in their schools. We train student leaders during the Student Fellows Program, so they are able to properly identify the needs of their school communities, develop strategies to meet objectives, and form collaborative teams for effective implementation. We support students throughout the year through a growing number of interactive programs and networking opportunities, including follow-up sessions, conference presentations, and a growing online network.
- We equip teachers with age-appropriate resources for use in the classroom setting. By offering realistic scenarios, meaningful quotes, information about character traits, links to websites, and discussion starter questions, our MAXIMize lessons are ready for teachers and guidance counselors to use immediately, yet they are flexible enough so that they can be adapted to the unique needs of each school and classroom community. MAXIMize utilizes prominent figures from a wide variety of professions and disciplines, so it is easily adaptable to a wide range of subjects and units.
- We encourage businesses to become involved in and to enhance character education by supporting our Student Fellows Program (such as Lockheed Martin's in-kind contribution of the site and food for the meetings), partnering with individual schools (such as the Goldman Sachs/Millennium High School grant program), and networking with students through the Conversations on Ethics program, a series of discussions between students and invited leaders in the business ethics community.
Why do ERC's programs work?
One of the great challenges of education is making it meaningful and relevant. Students often think to themselves or question aloud: "When am I ever going to need to know this stuff? What does it have to do with real life?" All students, especially those at the secondary school level and beyond, want to know that what they are learning matters and that their knowledge will have value long after that have passed the standardized tests and received their diplomas.
Recognizing students' inherent desire for "real life" learning and society's need to have an ethically educated citizenry, we have developed the Student Ethics Office (SEO) model. SEOs, modeled on corporate ethics offices, further the cause of ethics in the school community by creating an infrastructure to promote the school's core values. Students, acting as ethics officers, communicate the ethical ideals of the community through trainings and educational endeavors, identify areas of need within the school community, develop effective solutions, and serve as a force for positive peer-pressure within their school community.
The SEO model builds on students' desire for relevant learning by tying character education to their role as future members of the workforce. And, more than merely preparing students to be leaders in the future, the SEO model allows students to practice leadership by giving them the opportunity to act as ethical leaders in their school community.