Is There a Place for Character Education in School?


As summer draws to a close and we start shopping for school supplies, our thoughts naturally turn to what our children will be taught in school this year.

I read a provocative article recently about whether there was a place for character education in our public schools. Stephanie Petit, the writer of the article, says that not everyone agrees on what “good” character is, nor exactly how to teach it, and that results are anecdotal, therefore, maybe it shouldn’t be.

According to Petit, there are several ways to teach character education from encouraging good character through posters called the “cheerleading” approach all the way to a strict environment enforcing good character called “forced-formality.”

I would like to encourage dialogue on this topic but will give you some of my thoughts here.

While teaching good character may be difficult, I think teachers influence values and behavior regardless of what they do so it might as well be done in a conscious rather than unconscious way.

I also have read articles that state if the whole school is in on the teaching of good character, this goes further than each individual teacher teaching it. I agree with this because if everyone in the school is on the same page, it creates a culture and that has more impact than the culture in one specific classroom alone.

With my background in psychology, I don’t believe that good character should be forced or punitively instituted. I believe role modeling what character is desired and then reinforcing it with words and in teachable moments has the greatest lifelong impact.

So, what do you think? Yay or nay? Or something in-between?

You can read the full article here


7 thoughts on “Is There a Place for Character Education in School?

  1. I feel very strongly that good values should be taught in schools – and the argument that what constitutes a good character is too mutable to be successfully taught somewhat breaks down if you reverse it. Who wants to be penned up in a crowded classroom with students who think nothing of shouting out when it suits them? Pushing others out of the way and grabbing all the pens/rubbers/scissors and refusing to share? Refusing to take turns? Swearing and losing their tempers when they cannot initially succeed at mastering a subject/technique?
    You don’t have to encroach on family or community values to teach the basics in courtesy and consideration of others’ feelings – in fact I’d say it is vital for the classroom to be a healthy, safe environment for both teachers and students.

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  2. I’m not an authority on the subject but I do think there’s nothing wrong in teaching good values. I remember that as a child my parents were quite liberal with us. In retrospect, I often wish that they had in fact tried to rein us in and point us in a certain direction.

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    1. Thank you, Karen, for your input. I appreciate you taking the time to read my post and share your thoughts. I agree that values can be taught in school and that this actually benefits the child.

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  3. I think there’s certainly a place for good character education in school, but depends on how it’s done. For example, where I live, the education system makes a subject called Moral Education mandatory; however, it totally doesn’t work because it’s a theoretical and memorising subject, like Moral 1: being kind-hearted, Moral 1.1: being considerate, etc. It’s so bland and doesn’t have any case study or student interaction. I remember hating the subject because there was no point in it. 😅

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    1. What a good point you make, Nicolle! I agree that rote memorization isn’t going to affect behavior or more importantly internalized character. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog and interact on this important topic. I really appreciate your thoughts.

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