The Shared Responsibility of Teaching Children Values
Photo: Ambuj Saxena
Throughout time, societies have recognized the need to educated the coming generation of adults to pass on knowledge and skills. Recorded history from long before the present era emphasizes that education must also develop character.
One of the great education reformers, Horace Mann, in the 1840s helped to improve instruction in classrooms nationwide, advocating that character development was as important as academics in American schools. The United States Congress, recognizing the importance of this concept, authorized the Partnerships in Character Education Program in 1994.
One of the six goals of the Department of Education is to "promote strong character" among our nation's youth. (Strategic Plan 2002-2007) To reach this goal, the Department of Education joins with state education agencies and school districts across [the U.S.] to provide vital leadership and support to implement character education.
What is character education?
Throughout history, character education has been the shared responsibility of parents
, teachers and members of the community, who come together to support positive character development. Character education teaches the habits of thought and deed that help people live and work together as families, friends, neighbors, communities and nations.
Character education is a learning process that enables students and adults in a school community to understand, care about and act on core ethical values such as respect, justice, civic virtue and citizenship, and responsibility for self and others. Upon such core values, we form the attitudes and actions that are the hallmark of safe, healthy and informed communities that serve as the foundation of our society.
* Responsibility for self and others
"Nothing is of more importance for the public weal, than to form and train up youth in wisdom and virtue."
What is the school's role in character education?
Students spend much of their young lives in classrooms. This time in school is an opportunity to explain and reinforce the core values upon which character is formed.
In school, character education must be approached comprehensively to include the emotional, intellectual and moral qualities of a person or group. It must offer multiple opportunities for students to learn about, discuss and enact positive social behaviors. Student leadership and involvement are essential for character education to become a parrot of a student's beliefs and actions.
To successfully implement character education, schools are encouraged to:
* Take a leadership role to bring the staff, parents and students together to identify and define the elements of character they want to emphasize.
* Provide training for staff on how to integrate character education into the life and culture of the school.
* Form a vital partnership with parents and the community so that students hear a consistent message about character traits essential for success in school and life.
* Provide opportunities for school leaders, teachers, parents
and community partners to model exemplary character traits and social behaviors.
State education agencies, through a collaborative community process, have chosen to incorporate character education into their school improvement plans and state standards. Some states have chosen to implement character education through official state polices such as the Michigan State Board of Education Policy on Quality Education. Many school have chosen to incorporate character education into plans for Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities.
From state to state, the following are common threads in character education agendas:
* Involvement of the whole community in designing and implementing character education for its schools.
* Commitment for making character education an integral part of the education process.
Federal resources and support for character education:
The United States Congress and Department of Education have expanded support for character education for more than a decade, enabling schools to implement character education in a variety of ways. The Department of Education provides grants to state and local education agencies to support the development of character education. Since 1995 through the Partnerships in Character Education Program (www.ed.gov/programs/charactered/index.html), the Department has awarded 97 grants to assist in designing, implementing and sustaining high-quality opportunities for students to learn and understand the importance of strong character in their lives.
Resources for parents and teacher in character education:
Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools
Character Education and Civic Engagement Technical Assistance Center
What Works Clearinghouse?Character Education
Helping Your Child Become a Responsible Citizen
Booklet online: http://www.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/citizen/index.html
The preceding information was from the U.S. Department of Education and can be viewed at
Or call: 877 4ED-PUBS
End U.S. Department of Education Article
What some schools have done
Every morning in East Side High School Newark, NJ, students hear a recurring theme,
"Nothing is solved by violence, endeavor to solve your problems in a peaceable way."
--Mario Santos, Principal
Parents, youths and children need to be educated
in the value
of eschewing violence:
As a means of solving problems in the family or at school.
2. In video games and movies.
Violence in video games
, television and movies
does affect both the behavior of children and youths, as well as their grades. Studies indicate that children and teens who view violent R-rated movies
are affected adversely in their grade scores. Schools have a responsibility to educate both children, teens, and parents in this vital area of concern, in an increasingly violent society, and to work hard to ensure that violence in movies
and video games
is not a part of the school landscape, which it sometimes is, if school districts and individual schools are not vigilant in this area.
Some teachers have effectively encouraged youths to develop sound moral character and to avoid promiscuity, noting its deleterious effects both emotionally and physically.
4. Developing Positive Qualities
Developing qualities of compassion, kindness, humility, love are vital elements of education that many teachers instruct through careful choice of learning material in both the books and projects they develop within the classroom. Movies and videos which are viewed in schools need to be carefully selected to ensure that the values they teach are consistent with the character education goals of the school and school district.
Consistently Positive Values in School - Strict Policies Help
Why have a character education program with an anti-drug theme, and provide or allow movies which glamorize drug use or cigarette smoking within the school?
Why make a goal to teach a child to be a good and responsible community citizen while providing movies which teach the values of revenge and glamorize or humorize criminal acts or violence? What values do horror movies provide for children and how can the emotions or mental health of some children be effected?
These are questions for many public schools to reevaluate. If a movie is produced for children or teens, it is made available for children without much thought, and is used as part of the school program in library, classroom and recess time, regardless of its impact. Unrestricted YouTube content available through the public school Internet can undermine values, as can some hip hop websites, which are often filled with obscenities/profanities.
Policy in school districts can help to ensure that the video materials, video games and internet material available for children positively corresponds with character education goals. Some schools and school districts have made diligent efforts along these lines and can be considered an example.
Attention to character education and implementing appropriate policies along these lines can ensure that children and youths
have the best chance of success in their education
and their prospects for a successfully transition into adulthood.
Other Positive Goals of Character Education:
* Speech free from profanity
* Ethical Principles
* Avoiding use of Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking
* Education program in the dangers of involvement with Gangs
* High Moral Principles
* Effective Parenting
* Love your neighbor as yourself
* Honesty is the best policy
The promotion of such principles can help children and youths
to achieve success in their education and life course. Many of these goals have been addressed through the public school system through classroom or school projects, assemblies, and special assemblies or programs for parents.
Pages Related to Teaching Character Education
Positive Qualities from the Classroom to Teach Young People and Children
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- Free Printable Worksheets