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By Dr. Arthur Schwartz 

I cherish when two words come together to form an enthralling image.

For example, over 25 years ago, I heard Rushworth Kidder use the term “ethical fitness” for the first time. I was immediately transfixed. Spellbound. 

What triggered my eureka moment? Mr. Kidder’s jaw-dropping insight is that we can proactively strengthen our ethical muscles, just like our physical muscles. Character is not something we either have or don’t have. Rather, like going to the gym, we can create intentional “workouts” to increase our ethical fitness.

Rushworth Kidder passed away unexpectedly in 2012. He was a giant in the character education movement. He founded the Institute for Global Ethics in 1990 and went on to write How Good People Make Tough Choices (1995) and one of my all-time favorite books Moral Courage (2005). 

I was reminded this past week just how transformational Mr. Kidder’s term “ethical fitness” has been to my teaching, scholarship, and professional identity. His daughter Abby reached out to me to let me know that, with support from the J.M. Smucker Co. and other generous donors, Mr. Kidder’s family and colleagues have launched a new website that houses a treasure trove of Ethical Fitness materials and resources that her dad and the Institute developed.

Please check out the Ethical Fitness website. (And send the link to everyone in your network.) 

The website features several videos, including a short PBS clip where Rushworth talks about raising ethical children. There is also one of my favorite articles, “The Courage of One’s Convictions,” authored by Paula Mirk, the long-time vice president for education at the Institute for Global Ethics. The website also features the Ethical Fitness Workbook (which includes a fascinating chapter titled “Five Ways to Tell Right from Wrong”). 

My favorite section? The family has collected 81 commentaries, all but two penned by Rushworth Kidder. 

I started reading each commentary, and 30 minutes later, I realized that I was experiencing the same exhilaration that video gamers tell me they feel. I was in a flow state. But 20 minutes later, I realized I needed to show some fortitude and prudence. So, I stopped reading and began to pen this post.

On behalf of the board and staff of Character.org, a heartfelt thank you to the Kidder family for creating a free and accessible website that will be an invaluable resource for future generations. I can’t wait to hear how parents, educators, coaches, and workplace leaders, inspired by the resources on the website, are beginning to practice, teach, and model “ethical fitness.”

Author’s Note: I would love to learn how Rushworth Kidder and the Institute for Global Ethics have inspired you. Email me at arthur@character.org

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