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Character education and schools

The dawn of the new century saw character educators enjoying a renaissance of literature which advocated for the school’s mission to promote and conduct character education programs. Proponents of school character efforts found new programs in the first decade of the new millennium to continue the momentum built in the eighties and nineties. The focus on character education in public schools is not inconsequential. Glanzer (1997) explained that, “By giving attention to character education, public educators communicate both that there are timeless and transcendent moral values and that they desire good children as well as intelligent children” (p. 9). According to Huffman (1993), values education is an inherent part of the teaching process. For example, teachers imply values to their students by the classroom rules that are established, literature topics discussed, and how teachers relate to students.

Berkowitz and Bier (2005) noted that, “For a society to endure, it must socialize each generation of youth to embody the virtues and characteristics that are essential to that society’s survival and prosperity” (p. 64). As to the school’s role, Berkowitz and Bier (2005) wrote that, “Schools, as social institutions, have long understood their sacred trust to help form each future generation of citizens” (p. 64). Noddings (2005) asserted that, “Children are moral beings; therefore, we must provide character education programs” (p. 12). Bennett (1991) exhorted schools to teach character, “If we want our children to possess the traits of character we most admire, we need to teach them what those traits are” (p. 133). Etzioni (2002) noted three principles of character education the first of which is that, “Values education is a crucial part of public education that should be fostered in schools” (p. 114). Strengthening this view, Etzioni (2002) noted that, “schools should make the development of good character one of their primary responsibilities” (p. 114). Etzioni’s (2002) second principle is that, “Character-building is at the root of upholding values” (p. 114). The final principle is that, “Character education should imbue students with the full range of school experiences – the human curriculum as well as the academic curriculum” (p. 115).

The concern over America’s moral condition is prompting a reevaluation of the school’s role in teaching values (Lickona, 1993). The growing interest in character education had three causes: (a) the decline of the family; (b) troubling trends in youth character; and (c) recovery of shared, objectively important ethical values (Lickona, 1993). Schools are forced to deal with many problems other that curricular and programmatic ones. Monthly statistics dealing with attacks, shakedowns, robberies, attempted suicides, and gun-related crimes reflect a growing need for school-wide character education interventions. The need for character is readily visible in all areas that character education addresses. Daily school management maladies such as tardies, disrespect, insubordination, and violence lead to the larger issues of the loss of instructional time, attrition of personnel, costs of increased security staff and surveillance, and the emotional and educational well-being of students. Losses even extended to human lives in the nineties decade. Matera (2001) reported that:

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, Character education: review, analysis, and relevance to educational leadership. OpenStax CNX. Sep 24, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11119/1.1
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