“So what makes you such a big deal?” asked Garen, the blunt 8th grader. I’m not exactly a rock star. I was speaking at his school about my tool that measures character strengths: the Character Growth Index (CGI). I found Garen’s question entertaining. “I developed CGI to see if you are ‘DIVERGENT’!” His eyes bugged as he replied, “Scary but cool!”
Divergent is a best-selling book series among teens and now a movie with a sequel. In a post-apocalyptic world (what else?), teens are tested for their greatest talent and must choose one of five groups to be in for the rest of their lives. If they don’t qualify in the group they choose, they are either cast out or killed. Yes, kind of scary but a cool movie.
Character Growth Index isn’t really like the aptitude test in the movie. What makes it attractive to educators is that, according to Drs. Marvin Berkowitz and Tom Lickona, CGI is, “…to our knowledge, the only valid, reliable test of character virtues for middle and high school students.”
Educators know that talent enables achievement but character sustains success, defines an individual’s reputation, and is a primary indicator of happiness and flourishing. Knowing our students’ character strength levels will provide a reliable indicator of their future success and well-being (Lippman, Moore, & McIntosh, 2011). Better yet, if our students’ character strengths can be identified and measured over time, we have data to prove our character instruction is working… as we do in our academic instruction.
The character education movement is over 20 years old yet has never developed a character test. Seems strange, doesn’t it? If you have ever tried to measure character, you will learn quickly WHY this is true: Measuring character is really tricky!