Before probing the question of "What works?" in Character education, it may well be helpful to assess some of the disparagements of the movement. The addition of Character education curriculum has at times been a dilemma for schools, often reflecting conflicting philosophical points of consideration about principles and morality that have been argued for centuries. Ethical relativism holds that moral standards and ethics do not reflect universal truths, but instead are culturally prejudiced. In the school location then, the question is often mentioned: Whose ideals are to be taught? Some reviewers see Character education instructing values possibly opposite to those taught at home.
One common criticism aimed at Character education targets the hypothesis that education is first and foremost about academic priorities, and that teaching around character has no substantive quality and cannot be experimentally tested on standardized tests. But as we shall see, early research shows that in the midst of other things, effective comprehensive character education has positive effects on student achievement.
What Works in Character Education
Methodically assessed studies of Character education programs are in short supply. A variety of methods have been found to be largely unsuccessful in promoting good character. Among these are lecturing and moralizing, teaching styles that are imposing, externally derived codes of ethics, and setting an ethics agenda without involving students in the process. Other research summarizes the limits of character education thus: "the single use of instructive methods does not work, behavior is unrelated to one's ability to reason various questions of morality, character is developed through social interaction and environmental factors, and character development is not a simple task."
However, many results validate what seems spontaneous to many parents and educators: children who are given clear boundaries in an environment that fosters caring and compassion exhibit better behavior and are better able to learn in school. In other words, we don't have to choose between academics and character education. We need to do both.
As Character education continues to play vital role in education, it is key that parents and educators to be enlightened about its place and efficacy in schooling. Although there exist apprehensions about academic freedoms, and caution around personal belief systems and privacy, it has been disputed that all forms of education contain the teaching of values. School counselors, classroom teachers, librarians and other educators can advocate for, select, teach, and facilitate character education programs. Literature-based programs offer a valuable way to integrate and develop both academic and character growth.
By: Francis David