Our children's personal character- responsibility, civility and respect – is learned at home with their parents. As both a parent and teacher I have not only heard this phrase many times but have stated it myself.

The classroom is an environment for learning to read and write, while the home has always been the center for character building. Parents are traditionally the foundation of our children's character. Nonetheless, they are not our children's only teachers, and kitchen tables and living rooms are not the only places where individual morality is molded.

The years of schooling provide some of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences that shape our children. It's also the first time parents are not able to witness what their child is exposed to firsthand. There is a great deal that is new and undiscovered in this environment and it's all too easy for children to get lost despite what has been emphasized at home.

Through character education, the traits that have already been instilled at home are adapted to help the transition to the classroom and to adulthood. There needs to be a moral compass in schools to help guide our youth to a successful future.

By teaching our children to be good citizens, conscientious of personal responsibility and respectful of others, we are giving them the tools they will need to achieve what is awaiting them beyond graduation. This is why the values being taught in the home need to be extended to the classroom.

Two years ago Governor Pataki appointed me chair of the Task Force on School Violence. We were committed to creating safer schools and finding a way to prevent violent acts before they occur. As a result, the landmark Safe Schools Against Violence in Education (SAVE) Act was signed into law. SAVE not only works to reduce violence, but requires schools to incorporate character education throughout school curriculum and activities.

New York's education system under Governor Pataki has improved dramatically, but he knows, just as I do, that our job is never done. We must maintain high academic standards in New York and constantly aspire to do more and do better.

It's our responsibility to help our children acquire the strength they need to confront the complex issues of today. Character education is part of the fulfillment of New York's obligation to ensure that our children will be able to make those decisions with wisdom and fairness.