Character Education: An Approach to Values Education

Character Education can become an issue as educational systems around the world are seeking to help young people re-connect with their communities, their parents and themselves. Many of the programs being developed as part of this trend are in reaction to increasing bullying and often use terms such as respect, citizenship, trustworthiness, responsibility, fairness, caring and global education to describe their programs. “Character education” is an umbrella term used to describe many aspects of teaching and learning for personal development.

Some areas under this umbrella are “moral reasoning/cognitive development”; “social and emotional learning”; “moral education/virtue”; “life skills education”; “caring community”; “health education”; violence prevention”; “conflict resolution/peer mediation” and “ethic/moral philosophy”. Question?????? Character education is a specific approach to morals or values education, which is consistently linked with citizenship education.

But how is it possible for a heterogeneous society that disagrees about basic values to reach a consensus on what constitutes character education? In response to unsatisfactory attempts at character education governments attempted to reverse a perceived decline in moral standards by establishing State control of the schools curriculum, imposed on schools the duty to provide for moral and other development, and established curricula which attempted to articulate a set of consensus values in education.

Some goverments have extended these developments in the curriculum, introduced compulsory citizenship education. The character and virtues goverments seek to promote through schools are pragmatic and instrumental in intention, linked to raising pupil school performance, meeting the needs of the new economy, and promoting democratic participation. Sometimes (often) the vision is pluralistic and evades explicit directives, and there is no explanation or analysis of its theoretical basis.

The question of how agreement can be reached on what counts as character education may benefit from a thorough analysis of how law is possible in a heterogeneous society how incomplete theorized agreements on particular cases allow for common laws without agreement on fundamental principles. Many schools in fact operate in this way, but such a consensus is not entirely stable and runs the danger of teaching character education as a series of behaviour outcomes taught in a behaviourist fashion.