April 29, 2012 in Business

Showing a little character gains a measure of honor

Eleanor Katzele
 

Some time ago my husband’s iPad went missing. It’s not connected to a data plan, so we never take it out of the house. We looked for it in vain, finally chalking up the disappearance to that sock-stealing boogeyman living in everyone’s house.

Two weeks later, we returned from a short drive with the kids to find my husband’s HTC Samsung smartphone missing from the counter where I was certain we had put it. We had left the front door unlocked; stupid, I know. But we live in a nice neighborhood. It’s a quiet area filled with working families and retired couples, and we have never had an issue … until now. Our nanny, who lives downstairs, said she had heard noises upstairs but assumed we had come back for something. We hadn’t.

My husband found an application that locates your phone through GPS. Lo and behold, the application found his – at a neighbor’s house. The application is accurate to a 6-foot radius and comes with the address and photo of the home. To make sure the radius was realistic, we tested the application on my own phone. Check! So I politely confronted the neighbors. I took pictures of the missing items and a printout of the GPS location. I tried to give them an out by asking if maybe one of their children had picked the items up. They were incredulous that we had “lost” both iPad and phone, and denied that their family had anything to do with it.

I didn’t expect to get the stuff back. But I did hope the thief would know that we know. And I’m now contemplating a security system. Ugh.  

For me, this experience has reinforced the fact that our society desperately needs ethics education, from childhood through adulthood. All you have to do is look at the headlines or watch five minutes of news to know what negative situations are going on in the world. On the micro-level, I can’t count how many times I’ve seen someone let a door close on another person, throw a piece of trash in the street, or scream obscenities at their partner in front of their children. Our fast-paced, technologically advanced world is missing something vital to our future success – continuous ethics education.

Something needs to change. Somebody needs to make a difference. One of the organizations with its hat in the ring is PACE (Partners Advancing Character Education), a grass-roots initiative in Spokane Valley. I’m vice president of this group. PACE’s objective is to unite schools, businesses, families, faith-based and other community organizations in fostering good character in a 360-degree fashion. If you drive around the Spokane Valley, you will see the PACE “Character Word of the Month” posted on the readerboards of businesses and churches. You may have also seen character commercials on TV featuring the Spokane Shock’s “Referee Steve.” This month, the inaugural PACE Awards Dinner will recognize children from each school who have demonstrated the most character throughout the year – a big honor indeed.

Another program trying to fill the ethics vacuum is the BBB’s CORE (Character, Optimism, Respect & Ethics) Values presentation. This in-class workshop teaches middle school and high school students about the importance of ethics. During the program they are given ethical dilemmas for which they have to choose a course of action. Once they’ve decided, we throw in a twist. If their original answer changes because of the new information, they know it wasn’t ethical.

CORE teaches students to consider how much their actions affect others. It teaches the kids to look at interactions as relationships, not transactions. And it shows them that good ethics build self-respect. CORE asks the tough questions: What if the person acting unethically and endangering others is your brother? Should you still turn him in?

Working with the PACE and CORE programs reminds me that there is hope, that countless opportunities exist to increase ethics awareness. Technology is supposed to make our lives better. But all the technological advances in the world don’t amount to a hill of beans without good neighbors and ethical businesspeople. I challenge you to find a way to incorporate ethics and character education into your home and your business, then invite you to share your ideas with me.

It’s a cliché, I know, but together we CAN make a difference.

To learn more about PACE, please visit www.pacecommunity.org. The Better Business Bureau’s Education Foundation, which supports the CORE Values program, can be found at www.spokane.bbb.org.

Eleanor Katzele is the presidentand CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana. Have a topic suggestion for this column? She can be reached at ekatzele@spokane.bbb.org.

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