On Character Education

In his book Moral Courage, Russ Kidder points out that all cultures at all times have shared 5 common values: compassion, integrity, fairness, respect, and responsibility.

While schools have a responsibility to promote these virtues, we often struggle with what our approach should be. It’s almost easier to say what we don’t want to do: We don’t want to have a “character dean” or do anything that creates a “designated hitter” approach to the promotion of virtues because then it’s too easy for some of us to turn our backs on transgressions or say, “the dean will deal with it.”

What works best, I think, is when all the adults in a community embrace a set of values and see the inculcation (not indoctrination, by the way) of those values as a key part of their job.

My friend, Kevin Ryan, talks a lot about the “4 E’s” of character education:

Expectations — make them clear

Exhortation –get on that soapbox and encourage students to do the hard right thing

Experience — give them the chance to put their beliefs into action

Example –because values are caught not taught.


One thought on “On Character Education

  1. The final E is a tough one. My time spent with schools, teachers, administrators, boards has shown me that true role models are few and far between. I have witnessed every transgression in the student handbook committed by the people charged with the task of setting the example. That is the real problem. Lying, plagiarism, theft, verbal and physical violence, you name it.

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