Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication, Department of


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Published in The Journal of Agricultural Education, volume 42 (2001), pages 1-12. Used by permission.
The Journal of Agricultural Education (JAE) is a publication of the American Association for Agricultural Education (AAAE). Its back issues are available online at


Increased character education is one alternative available to help what many see as the mayhem of moral decline in America. Research suggests a correlation between the teaching of character education of youth and its positive ethical results throughout the United States. While these findings demonstrate positive changes experienced by youth audiences, no research to date has been conducted on the effects that teaching Character Counts! has on those teaching the program. The research project reported here examined Character Counts! Program's impact on Cooperative Extension and on the personal and societal lives of Extension educators and assistants. In a recent survey of 20,829 high school and middle school students conducted by the Josephson Institute of Ethics (1997) found the following. &#;&#;47% of all high school students said they had stolen something from a store in the past year. &#;&#;70% of the high school students confessed to cheating at least once in the past year. &#;&#;91% said they were "satisfied with my own ethics and character." &#;&#;97% said "it is important for me to be a person with good character!" These statistics are not restricted to the young. According to a recent survey of the Josephson Institute of Ethics (1997), one in five American workers admitted they had lied to a superior in the last year. In fact, roughly 25% said they had lied to a subordinate or a customer. One in three admitted that when competitive pressures hit at work, they had resorted to cheating or lying to make things easier. The honesty quotient does not improve on the home front. Twenty-five percent of adult children said they had lied to their own parent in the past 12 months. One-third said they had lied to their spouse, while one in four said they had lied to their own children (Josephson, 1997). These findings suggest that we can no longer rely on families to be the only, or even the primary, force in shaping the character of children. In the 1995 Survey on the Advancement of Teaching sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation, 70% of the U.S. parents questioned agreed that the family has the primary responsibility for developing values in children (Boyer, 1995). While U.S. families may believe character education should occur at home, given the crime, violence, and deception statistics, it is evident that this "in home" approach needs support from other entities.