Monday, 11 March 2002

All About Character and Tarnished Reputations

Talk radio host Dennis Prager once posed the question, "Would you rather your child smoke or cheat?" At first glance, the answer seems to be a no-brainer. I mean, who in their right mind would ever wish a future of lung cancer on loved ones, or the colostomies, false teeth, and prosthetics suggested by anti-smoking ads?

But that then begs the character question, a quality seemingly in short supply amid all the cheating and lying that goes on just in just the political arena alone. I give you Vice President Joe Biden, plagiarist; former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, tax evader; former President Bill Clinton, adulterer, and, of course, wife Hillary's famous, "What difference does it make?" when it came to Benghazi...

It all does make a difference, though-a very big one, so, given our dishonest role modelling, it should come as no surprise that our kids are into deception, too. In fact, according to Statistics Portal, while 40% of college presidents say that plagiarism on their campuses has stayed about the same over the past ten years, 55% say it's increased, so much so that there are now at least 49 services designed to ferret out unattributed student copying.

Among the best known, TurnItin, has identified and targets ten different types of plagiarism. It calls one of them "Clone," which means lifting someone else's work word-for-word. Another is "CTRL-C" where large portions have been lifted; one more is "Find-Replace," whereby only key words and phrases are altered but not the rest of the text.

Meanwhile, the Josephson Institute's 2010 Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth found that, of the more than 40,000 public and private high schoolers it surveyed:

• 59.4% admitted cheating on a test, including 55% of honors students;

• 33% had cheated on a test twice or more in the previous year;

• More than 80% said they'd copied homework;

• More than 33% had plagiarized an Internet document;

• 61% said they'd lied to a teacher about "something important."

• Only 20%, though, reported having cheated in sports.

And speaking of such school-related behaviors, educators, unfortunately, are not blameless, either. Just one glimpse at the Atlanta schools scandal tells the tale. Though not the only district to "fix" standardized tests to make themselves look better, it's certainly the one that's garnered the most attention.

The upshot: 11 former educators were convicted of racketeering, with the three former highest-ranking regional directors sentenced initially to seven years in prison and then 13 years of probation. Said presiding Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter: "They have made their bed, and they're going to have to lie in it, and it starts today."

However, he recently reduced the prison sentences to three years, adding a $10,000 fine and 2,000 hours of community service each. Not so for former Superintendent Beverly Hall, though. During her tenure, she received $581,860 in bonuses and was actually named 2009's National Superintendent of the Year thanks in large part to impressive standardized test scores. She retired in 2011 and passed away while under indictment...

And in sports, yet another well-known figure has fallen from his perch. Once known as the king of the NFL and its "golden boy," the 2015 Super Bowl's MVP, Tom Brady, has now been suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season, with his Patriots paying a fine of $1 million and missing two draft picks. All this because he apparently prefers slightly deflated footballs, now referred to as Deflategate. Plus, not only did Brady refuse to cooperate in the probe, he's now appealing the decision.

What should trouble him at least as much, however, is reflected in Jim Corbett's USA Today headline: "Brady's Rep beyond Repair," followed up with "Public opinion of Patriots' start QB forever damaged." Troubling, indeed. As Benjamin Franklin reminds us, "It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it."

Meanwhile,the Josephson Institute, has identified Six Pillars of Character:

1. Trustworthiness: Be honest; don't deceive, cheat, or steal; be reliable; build a good reputation...

2. Respect: Follow the Golden Rule; use good manners, not bad language; be considerate of others' feelings...

3. Responsibility: Do what you're supposed to do; plan ahead; persevere; always do your best...

4. Fairness: Play by the rules; take turns and share; don't take advantage of others; listen to others...

5. Caring: Be kind; be compassionate and show you care; express gratitude; forgive others...

6. Citizenship: Cooperate; stay informed; vote; be a good neighbor; obey laws and rules; respect authority...

Bottom line: Given a choice, do the right thing. No take-backs; no apologies; no regrets.

Carol is a learning specialist who worked with middle school children and their parents at the Methacton School District in Pennsylvania for more than 25 years and now supervises student teachers at Gwynedd-Mercy University and Ursinus College. Along with the booklet, 149 Parenting School-Wise Tips: Intermediate Grades & Up, and numerous articles in such publications as Teaching Pre-K-8 and Curious Parents, she has authored three successful learning guidebooks: Getting School-Wise: A Student Guidebook, Other-Wise and School-Wise: A Parent Guidebook, and ESL Activities for Every Month of the School Year.,firma,Windows-Seven-Blue-Screen-Of-Death.html

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