What is Character?
The word 'character' has many different connotations and uses. For
- A 'character' in a story or cartoon is often an exaggerated prototype.
- A person who seems a bit larger than life might be also be called 'a real
- In educational contexts, 'character' is often considered to refer to how
'good' a person is - in other words, a person who exhibits personal qualities
which fit with those considered desirable by a society might be considered to
have a good character and developing such personal qualities is often then
seem as a purpose of education. Commonly emphasised qualities include
honesty, respect, and responsibility.
- Here's a few more definitions from
- character is what you do when no one's watching
- character is what you are in the dark
- character is needed to lead a good life
- character is higher than intellect
- character is the jewel of human life
- character is the only secure foundation of the state
- character is in the eye of the beholder
- character is defined by what you do
- character is shaped in the womb
about character by presidents of the United States
According to Cornwall (2005):
"Character" is an archaic, quasi-metaphysical term, more related to
horoscopes than any scientific concept. It is a term with no agreed upon
definition, even among proponents of character education, which, moreover, that
confusingly blends personality and behavioral components. This reveals the
fundamental problem with character education: how can there be accountability
for a program that seeks to address something (a quality, ability, aptitude?)
with no clearly defined or quantifiable attributes and which, therefore, can
demonstrate neither need nor success.
What is Character Education?
To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace society.
- Theodore Roosevelt
has defined character education as:
deliberate, proactive effort to develop good character in kids—or, more
simply, to teach children right from wrong. It assumes that right and wrong do
exist, that there are objective moral standards that transcend individual
choice—standards like respect, responsibility, honesty, and fairness—and that
we should teach these directly to young people.
What is a Character Education Program?
Lickona (1991) identified the following facets of character
- direct teaching of character values within the school curricula
- high expectation for responsible behavior
- a process for implementing positive values when making decisions
- visual reinforcement of character values to keep students focused on the
words, concepts and behaviors
- a school culture that fosters positive peer recognition and empowers all
members of the school community to exemplify behaviors consistent with
respect and responsibility
- parent, student and community
involved in decision making of the character education programs.
Other descriptions of the elements of a successful character education
- Kidder identifies seven elements (Education
- Brooks and Kann (1993)
identify eleven elements which they believe are essential if character education
programs are to improve student conduct and enrich the educational environment.
Character Education is Controversial
Character education is controversial and there have been an increasing number
of critiques of the assumptions, methods and values typically promoted in
character education (e.g., Brookes, 2003;
Links - Character Education
- Center for the 4th and 5th Rs:
Respect and Responsibility - Cortland NYU
- Character Counts! National [USA]
Homepage - free materials for developing six pillars of character
- CharacterEd.net -
well organized resources for students, parents, families, teachers
- Character Education at the Center
for Advancement of Ethics & Character - School of Education, Boston
- Character Education Curriculum
Reviews & Resources - California Department of Education
- Character Education - ERIC
Resources - handy page, easy to use, has main links &
- Character Education Partnership -
coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to developing moral
character and civic virtue in youth
- Character Education
Resources - Midge Fraizel's comprehensive site
- Character Education Utah
Homepage - resources and downloads
- Character Education Resources -
free resources, lesson plans, materials
- International Center for
Character Education - online courses, Masters & PhD degrees
in character education
- Jefferson Center for Character
Education - produce & promote programs to teach children in
grades K through 12 concepts, skills and behavior of good character, common
core values, personal and civic responsibility
- Life Effectiveness Questionnaire - tool for
measuring the impact of personal development programs
Training Center, Inc. - teaching 100 universal life skills
- National [USA] Character Education Center
- pre-school through high school resources
Problem with Character Education - a thorough, readable, balanced critique
of the character education
Allman, B. (1999). Developing character when it counts. Torrance, CA:
American School Counseling Association (1998).
School Counseling Association's position statement on Character Education.
Brookes, A. (In press). "A critique of neo-Hahnian outdoor education theory.
Part one: Challenges to the concept of 'character building'." Journal of
Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning.
Brookes, A. (2003).
Character building. Why it doesn't happen, why it can't be made to happen, and
why the myth of character building is hurting the field of outdoor education.
Paper presented at the 13th National Outdoor Education Conference, Marion, South
Australia. [.pdf - 3.5MB]
Brooks, B. D., & Kann, M. E.
What Makes Character Education Programs Work? Educational Leadership,
Brynildssen, S. (2002).
education through children's literature. ERIC Digest ED469929.
Cornwall, K. (2005).
with character education.
Patriotism for All.
Department of Education, University of Boston (n. d.)
Ethics Resource Center (n.d.)
How to get started.
Giampietro, P. J. (2003).
Character education: Another look. Character Education Grant, University
of New Hampshire.
Graham, J. (2002).
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?".
Keynote address to the West Virginia Safe Schools Conference, 2001.
Huitt, W. (2000).
Huitt, W. G. (2002).
and character development. Valdosta State University. Powerpoint
International Center for Leadership in Education (n.d.).
programs: Developing guiding principles in students.
Education Update (2000).
Talking About Ethics and Character Education, Education Update,
Lickona, T. (1991).
Educating for character: How our schools can teach respect and responsibility.
New York: Bantam.
Lickona, T. (1993).
The return of
character education. ERIC Digest.
Lickona, T., Schaps, E., & Lewis, C. (n.d.)
Eleven principles of character
education. Character Education Partnership.
Neill, J. T. (2002). Outdoor
education and the development of self constructs (self-esteem, self-confidence,
Neill, J. T. (2002). Outdoor
education, ethics and moral development.
Otten, E. H. (2000).
education. ERIC Digest ED444932.
Rusnak, T. (Ed.). (1998). An integrated approach to
character education. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Singh, G. R., (2001). How Character
Education Helps Students Grow. Educational Leadership, 59(2),
University of Illinois Extension (n.d.).Character
education: Teaching kids to care.
Vess, K. A., & Halbur, D. A. (2003).
Character education: What
counselors need to know. ERIC Digest.
Williams, C. E. (n.d.)