Character counts

“Be virtuous and you will be eccentric.”
– Mark Twain

Call me eccentric; I don’t care. Talking about virtue is not currently fashionable but that does not deter me from promoting it in the joined-at-the-hip worlds of business and education.
The drumbeat about our national education problems and those associated with the city of Milwaukee do not bode well for our competitive edge in business.  As one of the national organization founders of Character Education Partnership (CEP), let me make clear Character Education is not about one textbook or software program over another.
We were formed because even with all the bells and whistles, American students were/are falling behind. We formed CEP to promote virtue in schools. How can anyone learn in an environment where people do not respect one another?
Respect is the basic component of virtue. Schools throughout the country who adopt CEP’s “11 Principles” soon see their academic performance increase dramatically.

“It is of no consequence of what parents a man is born, as long as he be a man of merit.”
– Horace

The only thing Horace got wrong is he should have used the word “person,” not man. Given its track record, CEP now has data to show it works across all social, economic and ethnic groups. Virtue is not the provenance of one class of people. For example, bullying is not restricted to a distressed area like the South Bronx; it is found in the most upscale suburbs. Many educators consider it to be an epidemic. Some day you’re going to hire these bullies; who cares if they can solve trigonometry problems (which they can’t).

“The greatest virtues are those which are most useful to other persons.”
– Aristotle

 Look at Character Education from the purity of a balance sheet. How many workplace headaches could be avoided if you hired graduates of schools where: core ethics like honesty and reliability are expected; character development is promoted, caring for your fellow students is encouraged; morality is a basic starting point, academic performance is challenging; self-motivation and leadership are required; the wider community is considered, and assessment is on-going? Some schools and school districts across the country strive daily to accomplish these goals. Your company should rush to demand this kind of education and hire the graduates. Teaching and learning calculus will be easier in a caring respectful environment.

“The time is always right to do what is right.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.

I am asking the entire business community to join my Eccentric Club. All joking aside, we absolutely must become members and resuscitate the virtuous life. If like me you are sick of the distressing message about the U.S. economy being overtaken and our schools going down the drain, do something about it.
The correlation between environment and learning is no longer in question. Please browse the national website at www.character.org and read the governing “11 Principles.” You’ll see names of organization leaders who are people of character: General Colin Powell, Peter Lynch and Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski; locally, former Harley Davidson Chairman and CEO Rich Teerlink. Wisconsin has its own chapter and website: www.wicharacter.org. While there, join the Wisconsin Call to Character. Like Don Quixote, we may get a little battered and scarred, but the world will be better for what we do.

Richard Pieper is the founding chief executive officer and chairman of PPC Partners in Milwaukee.

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