DOWNEY - At nearly 9 a.m. in the morning on a typical Tuesday, one would hardly think a 16-year-old would be in the mood for an ethics lesson."You have to compete with iPhones and iPads, $3 million commercials and movies that cost $300 million," said Dr. Robert Jagielski, director of student services for the Downey Unified School District. "It's hard to compete with...but we can plant seeds to reach as many as we can." With the help of Character Counts creator Michael Josephson, the Downey Unified School District is preparing to give every middle and high school student something to think about twice a week through a 90-second commentary designed to inspire teens to discuss ethical issues relevant to their lives. "It's a great way to start your week and end your week," said Jagielski. "The teachers are excited to hear it...we're hoping there's an 'ah-ha moment' for students." Geared directly to teenagers, the bi-weekly audio commentary "Something to Think About," read by Josephson himself, incorporates modified versions of his popular radio essays. From generosity and simple acts of kindness to wise decision-making and responsibility, Josephson covers a wide range of topics, sharing thought-provoking anecdotes, which encourage students to think more meaningfully about their everyday choices. "One area I will discuss during these commentaries is decision making and the need to think about the possibility of unintended consequences," said Josephson during his first commentary, which was played at both Downey and Warren high schools last week as part of a pilot program. "In the coming weeks, I hope I can give you some tools to help you steer clear of life-changing mistakes and that you will come to trust me as a truly caring advisor." Josephson, a former lawyer and law professor, is one of the nation's most sought-after speakers and consultants in the field of ethics and character. In 1987, he founded the Josephson Institute of Ethics, which later introduced Character Counts, a character-development strategy based on six universal ethical values - trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. The Downey Unified School District and city officials have since adopted the program as a model for students, citizens and community leaders alike. While discussing Character Counts with Josephson, Jagielski suggested he turn his 17 years worth of radio commentaries and editorial features into short audio segments played for students during morning announcements. "It was a simple conversation that produced a good idea," Jagielski said. "It's a new audience, but the message is good and that's the idea. Every high school and middle school has announcements, here's an avenue." Hoping to get feedback before his series launches nationwide this August, Josephson met with student leaders at both Downey and Warren High School inviting them to provide feedback and suggestions. During the course of the pilot, the DUSD will distribute feedback forms and encourage students to e-mail Josephson directly with comments and suggestions regarding the content or format of the commentaries, which will be available on his website and iTunes. The Josephson Institute of Ethics will provide middle and high schools with two commentaries each week until the end of the semester, Jagielski said. While playing the commentaries is optional, administrators from each Downey middle school have also agreed to broadcast "Something to Think About" during the morning announcements. The four middle schools will begin sharing the bi-weekly commentaries in the coming weeks. Jagielski confirmed that the school district has already requested 20 commentaries for this fall when school resumes. "This is powerful, that's what it is," said Jagielski who's confident students will benefit from the ethical values Josephson shares in his features. "He does a really good job. We may not be able to reach everyone, but it can make a difference."
********** Published: April 26, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 02