The Stanislaus County Office of Education launched a campaign called “Choose Civility” on Tuesday, Nov. 2 to address the issue of declining civility and to encourage people to choose positive, respectful behaviors.
Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools Tom Changnon said that his inspiration for the county-wide initiative came following his attendance at a number of school board meetings. He said that with state budget cuts, a number of school boards had asked him to attend their meetings to explain to meeting attendees how all districts were affected by the cuts and the situations created because of those cuts weren’t necessarily because of mismanagement by the district or the school board members. He said that he was happy to attend the meetings and shoulder some of that criticism but found many issues with civility in various school districts. He added that children were often present and he felt that the adults were modeling inappropriate behavior.
“We need to do something about civility in our communities because we can do better than this,” Changnon said.
The guidelines for the campaign come from P.M. Forni’s book “Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct.”
Approximately 30 people in Stanislaus County including politicians, educators, faith-based and medical people were asked to serve on the board of advisors for the campaign. Changnon said they all want to see the image of Stanislaus County improve. They met about a month ago and talked about how to market it. He said they geared the campaign for what they thought were the top 12 principles of civil behavior.
Those 12 principles are: Respect other people’s time, Don’t shift responsibility and blame, Accept and give praise, Respect others’ opinions, Acknowledge others, Speak kindly, Apologize sincerely, Refrain from idle complaints, Think the best, Accept and give constructive criticism, and Don’t speak ill.
Changnon said this initiative is for schools, businesses, city governments, governing boards, and members of the community. He added that he’d like to get people talking about civility, such as in staff meetings, and said he knows that organizers and leaders have their work cut out but “we have to do something.”
This initiative is different from previous SCOE campaigns in that it does not result in funding for the school districts the way prior campaigns did such as “Every Day Counts” and “Fit For The Future.” However, Changnon believes that this multi-year campaign will also have an impact over time on bullying, which is a problem in schools. Also, this campaign is broader in its approach, reaching out beyond the schools and into the communities themselves. Of note, Oakdale Joint Unified School District implemented a specific character education program called “The Power of One” in 2003.
The Choose Civility initiative was launched in Modesto at the Martin Petersen Event Center on Tuesday with guest speaker Michael Josephson addressing the invitees. Josephson is the president of Josephson Institute and its “Character Counts!” project. The morning’s agenda also included an overview of the campaign, the principles of civil behavior, and next steps to take.
For more information about the Choose Civility campaign go to the SCOE website at www.stancoe.org/civility.