Character Education – Begin Young and Keep it Going

Despite what many would like us to believe, character, personal character, really does matter.  It matters for every person, not just elected officials or top-level corporate management.   Ordinary, everyday people, need character.  Character is that inner quality that comes into play when we’re faced with a choice between right and wrong.  A person of character will do the right thing even if no one is looking.   Strong character traits such as honesty, respect, caring, responsibility, trustworthiness, and so on don’t just happen; they need to be modeled, taught and developed.  And you can’t start too early.  Parents need to begin right away working on that monumental task with their children.

But it’s not only parents and extended family members who need to help the next generation develop character. Wisconsin Family Council is a strong proponent of character education in schools.   We applaud the statewide efforts in the last few years to add character education to the curricula of both public and private schools in our state.  The Wisconsin Character Education Partnership (WCEP) is the umbrella group that is encouraging all our schools to proactively and intentionally teach good, old-fashioned character traits to our kids.   This partnership pushes a nationally recognized program that has 11 character traits recognized and taught.  Each year the WCEP recognizes different schools that have excelled in character education efforts, and the Department of Public Instruction is helping by highlighting these schools that are award-winners.

Schools don’t have to use the program recommended by WCEP to be part of the character education movement.  Rice Lake Schools, for instance, have adopted Character Counts, an excellent all-school initiative. 

What’s important is that every school should do something purposeful about helping to build strong, positive character traits into the young people who sit hour after hour, day after day, year after year in their classrooms.  What a golden opportunity to bring about real change and real hope in our society–because real character really matters!

UW-Madison sheds light on where stimulus money is going in WI

We’ve all been wondering. What’s happening with the taxpayer-funded stimulus money?  How much has come into Wisconsin and where has it gone?  Thanks to a UW-Madison press release yesterday, we now know over $26 million has gone to UW-Madison faculty in the form of 90 research grants.  

As a side note, it’s rather fascinating that the release proudly notes that the UW-Madison is one of the top three research grant universities in the country.  I don’t know how that can be.  We’ve repeatedly been told that unless we the taxpayers pay for domestic partnership benefits for UW employees, all the people who get these grants will pack their bags and head elsewhere, taking their money with them.   The whining rhetoric always includes, “We’re the only Big 10 school without these benefits.”  Well, I’ll be.  Even the UW admits the truth–they’re still in the top 3 and up until this last budget when the Governor and his legislative cronies finally got their way for not just UW employees but all state employees, no UW employees in domestic partnerships had taxpayer-funded health care or any other such benefit.  

So, what’s the stimulus money in the form of research grants going to be used for?  Among other things, stem cell research, Antarctic weather stations and cancer research.  The stem-cell research comes with a pack of ethical problems, unless of course, all the money goes to adult embryonic stem-cell research, which given the UW-Madison’s track record in this area is highly doubtful.  And Antarctic weather stations?  Please–now you’re really stretching the limits of my taxpayer generosity.

But hang on, read the release to learn how many more of these taxpayer-funded-stimulus-money grants the UW faculty have in the works.  It’s just great, isn’t it, to be a Wisconsin taxpayer?

A vaccine for fear, anyone?

This week’s American Profile, the weekly insert in my hometown paper, the Watertown Daily Times, had an ad that got my attention.  The ad was for a vaccine to prevent shingles.  I’d never seen or heard of such a vaccine.  But the ad reminded me of the recent push from so many directions for everyone to get vaccines for all kinds of diseases.

The Gardasil vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), the vaccine for what is popularly known as “swine flu,” er, that would be “H1N1,” this vaccine for shingles, and on and on.   In fact, the CDC’s Immunization page lists 27 diseases for which there are vaccines.  For children ages 0-6, the CDC recommends 11 different vaccines and 10 for young people ages 7-18.   

To vaccinate or not has been and continues to be a hot topic–for parents making decisions on behalf of their children and for adults making decisions for themselves.   That issue isn’t the point of this post.

What I think is becoming all too apparent, especially in light of this disaster of  a bill audaciously called “health care reform,” is that we have outright fearmongering.  I suspect it’s the pharmaceutical companies that are largely culpulable here, but I don’t think they’re alone.  The pharmaceuticals (Merck pops up frequently in connection with vaccines) need to keep us afraid that we’re going to get some dread disease so we keep buying their vaccines and thereby improving their bottom line while possibly really endangering our health.  The media picks up these scary stories and plays them ad nausem, increasing the fear.  

Then, if we get this universally-bad health care program, and we get sick from the vaccine(s), we  are at the mercy of the system as to whether we are statistically worthy of treating.  And this whole atrocious cycle starts because we buy into the fearmongering.

Fear is a natural human emotion–and often a very good one.  But fear used as a means to scare people into decisions that may very well not be in their best interest is just plain wrong, especially during an economic crisis that has many people worried about paying any medical expenses.  

Next thing you know someone will be hawking a vaccine for fear!  Do yourself and your family a huge service.  Research before you jump on the vaccine boat.  Don’t let scare tactics and fear drive you in this life and death matter.  Get educated so you can make informed decisions for yourself and your family.

Vacations, family and politics

Every summer my grandparents rent a house on the family’s favorite beach BeachHouse07and their children and grandchildren spend a week enjoying the sand, water and each other’s company.

It’s the highlight of my family’s summer–a relaxing couple of days that we eagerly anticipate every year.  Long walks on the beach, twenty aunts, uncles and cousins riding the waves together on a particularly windy August day, congregating on the beach to watch the magnificent sunset every evening, sunburns and sandy grapes.

The one challenge is, as always, managing family politics.  My own family doesn’t always fit in with our extended family: we homeschool(ed), we’re conservative, we’re evangelical Christians, there’s ten of us (plus in-laws and grandchild) and we’re not afraid to voice our opinions or stand our ground.  Sometimes it feels like the only thing we have in common with our extended family is our Irish/Italian ancestry.

However, my grandparents instilled in all of their children an appreciation of and love for family.  Now their children are passing that heritage down to the grandchildren.  So while we don’t always get along (and we have a litany of topics we generally try to avoid), we do enjoy our times together and we love family memories and traditions.

It’s a great experience and I’ve even come to enjoy and appreciate the challenge of maneuvering family politics…most of the time.  It takes skills to be able to totally disagree with someone you love on matters that are vitally important to you while still maintaining a workable relationship with them.  Lots of skills.

But family is totally worth that effort and I’m grateful to be part of a family that stays together despite their differences.  I’m grateful for the heritage my grandparents have given us of a loving family.

I will, however, be packing my beach bag this year with the latest facts and data on the government health care plan.  I like to come prepared…

Health care bill would fund abortion industry

Last night over 36,000 activists participated in the Stop the Abortion Mandate webcast featuring front-line pro-life leaders and activists from across the nation.   Update, Mon., 7/27/09 – the webcast was recorded and is available for listening on the Stop the Abortion website.

Thanks to the phone calls, emails and letters of hundreds of thousands of Americans, Congress is not getting an easy pass on the atrocious health care bill.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) just announced that he will not be able to bring the health care bill to a vote before the August recess, giving us more time to contact our legislators.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Pray
  2. E-mail and write letters to your Representative and two Senators at:
  3. Call the Washington office and the local office of your Representative and two Senators; instructions at:
  4. Spread the word! Distribute this flyer to everyone you know and use Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail samples at:
  5. Write a Letter to the Editor of your local newspaper using samples at:

Visit for more information and action item.

Appling v. Doyle – A Legal Challenge to Gov Doyle’s Same-Sex Domestic Partnership Registry

This morning WFC’s sister organization, Wisconsin Family Action (WFA) filed a petition for an original action with the Wisconsin Supreme Court, through their attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund and ADF-allied attorneys Richard Esenberg and Michael Dean of First Freedoms Foundation, asking for a permanent injunction against the statewide, same-sex domestic partnership registry authored by Gov. Doyle in the state budget.

WFA’s press release explains that the petitioners, WFA board members Julaine Appling, Jerry Hiller and E. Lee Webster, and their attorneys believe the registry violates the Wisconsin Marriage Protection Amendment, approved by 1.2 million Wisconsin voters in November, 2006 (59.4% to 41.6%).

Appling has described the marriage-like registry as an end-run around the Marriage Protection Amendment and an assault on the people, the state constitution, the institution of marriage and the democratic process.  Like many of the unnecessary and unneeded items in the 2010-11 state budget, the registry is one of Doyle’s political pay-back moves.  It’s general knowledge that Doyle and Co. used the marriage amendment referendum in 2006 to mobilize liberal voters and solidfy Doyle’s reelection.

Fair Wisconsin, the statewide group that organized against the amendment, boasts that they were deeply involved with the governor and the legislature in the creation and passage of the same-sex domestic partnership registry and actually admits the registry creates a “legal status.”

WFA’s petition contends the legal status is substantially similar to that of marriage and is therefore in violation of the amendment, because the requirements and process for obtaining a domestic partnership certificate are virtually identical to those for obtaining a marriage license–even down to the same fees.

WFA now waits to find out if the Court will accept the original action petition–and grant their request for a permanent injunction and a declaration that the registry is unconstitutional.

Click here to access WFA’s press release, FAQ and additional related material.

WI Supreme Court rules in favor of religious schools

Yesterday the Court released a 4-3 decision in the 2002 Coulee Catholic Schools v. LIRC case. In 2002, 53-year-old Wendy Ostlund sued her former employer, Coulee Catholic Schools, for age discrimination because she was fired, along with 8 other teachers.

State Supreme Court Justices Prosser, Roggensack, Ziegler and Gableman ruled that religious schools are exempt from employment discrimination claims under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA) when the employee’s position is “important and closely linked to the religious mission of a religious organization.”

Claims of age discrimination fall under the WFEA, therefore, according to the Court, Ostlund cannot sue the Catholic school for firing her.

It’s an interesting case because although the Court agrees the “state has a strong interest in preventing age discrimination in society as a whole,” they are constrained by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Wisconsin constitution and statutes which pr0tect the free exercise of religion and prohibit the state from “enforcing discrimination laws against religious associations when the employment at issue serves a ministerial or ecclesiastical function.” (Jocz v. LIRC, 196 Wis. 2d 273, 538 N.W.2d 588).

Coulee is an extremely important precedent for religious organizations because the ruling protects faith-based organizations’ hiring practices for “ministerial or ecclesiastical” positions.

Here’s my favorite quote from Coulee

As a court, our job is to interpret and apply the law the people adopt, not to make it up in accord with ours or society’s current policy preferences.

Good for them! The Court leaves the door open for the legislature to apply the age discrimination law against religious organizations instead of creating the policy in their ruling.

Health Care Reform

This week’s radio commentary: Health Care Reform: Patient Autonomy or Government Monopoly?

After months of waiting, the Democratic leadership in Congress finally introduced the Administration’s universal health care bill—with a deadline to have it on the president’s desk by October. Even before members of the House had time to read the 1,000-page bill, two important House committees had already approved it.

Read/listen to the rest of the commentary here.

American Majority training in Madison on Saturday

This Saturday, July 25, American Majority is hosting an activist training event at the Madison Public Library.  American Majority trains candidates and activists to make a difference in their community and state.  If you’re interested in learning about American Majority’s exciting new tools and resources and networking with like-minded individuals and organizations, sign up for this event at!

The training event will take place in the Front Lecture Room (room 202) of the Madison Public Library at 201 W. Mifflin St. from 10:00 a.m. to approximately 1:00 p.m.  The cost is $20/person.  The presentation will include:

  • Building Coalitions, Reaching Your Community, and Organizing Meaningful Events
  • Holding Your Elected Officials Accountable
  • Getting Involved in State and Local Political Campaigns
  • New Media: Op-Eds, Blogs, Wikipedia Projects and more
  • Much, much more.

In February of this year Wisconsin Family Action (WFA), WFC’s sister organization, hosted one of American Majority’s training events in Fond du Lac.  The training was well-received and much appreciated by the activists and candidates who attended, and we highly recommend it.

Click here to learn more about this event.