Character Education

Ryan S. Olson

in Education

ISBN: 9780199756810
Published online December 2011 | | DOI:
Character Education

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The story of character education is a complex one, deeply involved with the intellectual, cultural, and institutional narratives of particular historical contexts. Some argue character does not exist; others claim character is (or should be) the cardinal concern of central societal institutions such as schooling. In general, character education or moral education is a field of endeavor that attempts to produce the kinds of persons who pursue the goods toward which a culture is directed. Character education broadly defined can claim a long history, beginning perhaps in ancient Greece some 2,800 years ago when middling farmers took responsibility for handing down—through hard work and freedom—a cultivated piece of private property to their next generations and fostered a culture from which arose a polis dedicated to the flourishing of as many citizens as possible. Character is a Greek word connoting features deeply etched. Though character has usually been considered to be more social in its constitution—reflecting the ideas, institutions, and individuals who constitute a moral culture—it has in modernity come to be considered as almost exclusively psychological in nature, reflecting the personal choices, brain functioning, preferences, and/or “values” of autonomous individuals. However, one cannot separate philosophical anthropology or epistemology from character formation. Acknowledged or not, such assumptions define the ends toward which character education is aimed. What are goods one ought to pursue with one’s life? How can one be worthy of such goods? Why are others worth treating with respect in a society? Answering these questions with educational efforts is problematized by the shifting sources of character—formerly religious texts, commonly revered stories, symbols, practices and ideas—no longer shared in societies within which relations are made increasingly complex by the interaction of multiple cultures. Many character curricula exist today, taking such diverse approaches as the instilling of moral habits, learning of decision-making techniques, practice of service, creation of caring communities, clarification of one’s values, inculcation through public policy fiat, reading of religious texts and catechisms, exercise of social democratic practices and the like. This sprawling field will surely continue to grow. The integration of sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, and neuroscience have yet to deeply exert influence. Similarly, globalization is leading to cosmopolitan ideas of character and citizenship that are relatively recent avenues of exploration, and countries continue to wrestle with how to educate for character within increasingly multicultural societies where moral education is contested.

Article.  12487 words. 

Subjects: Education ; Organization and Management of Education ; Philosophy and Theory of Education ; Schools Studies ; Teaching Skills and Techniques

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