Character Building in School
In a society with a vast array of different beliefs and mediums through which these beliefs are presented, children can get lost in an overwhelming sea of influential ideas and concepts not necessarily intended for their eyes and ears. Character education is a concept that calls for teachers and school curriculums to guide students in learning what Edward F. DeRoche and Mary M. Williams (2001, p. 25) described as “core values held sacred by a democratic society.” Parents are generally considered the teachers of morals, but if values like sharing, compassion, and honesty are never enforced or addressed outside the home, these values may never be established ...view middle of the document...
This practice would continue for a long time until the mid-1900s.
As the country’s population became more diverse, people started to shy away from teaching specific, religious values and beliefs to children. It became no longer acceptable for one set of values based on Christianity to be taught in public schools, where children of all sorts of different backgrounds attended. In 1963, the Supreme Court deemed prayer and the use of the Bible for worship in public schools unconstitutional (Hunt, 1969). Soon afterward, the concept of values clarification was developed. Howard Kirschenbaum (2000), a former values clarification supporter turned character education supporter, defined values clarification as the guiding of youths in the development of their values while not imposing the teachers’ or anyone else’s values on them. Education went from incorporating religious values to merely presenting children with information and allowing them to develop their own values. In light of taking religious influences and traditional value teaching out of schools, generally people had shifted to a different outlook. In an issue of the National Education Association’s journal, Today’s Education, printed in the late 1960s, the R. L. Hunt (1969) emphasized that because God is mentioned in historical governmental documents, the teacher must be careful to only inform children of this, and not encourage them to follow those beliefs:
Because the Founding Fathers so believed [in God and the necessity of God in moral decisions], shall the school say to the young questioner, “This you must believe”?
No. The school has to teach the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence, their texts and contexts, with integrity. Then, given the facts, the youth in classroom has freedom to believe as he chooses to follow the truth as he sees it. (p. 25)
This approach to value education is very different from the inculcation of religious morals that were second nature to fundamental education in earlier times.
From values clarification came the development of what is known today as character education. This came from people realizing that facilitating the development of a child’s own values really was teaching them honesty, integrity, and compassion to some extent (Kerschenbaum, 2000). The problem was that because the values were not directly being taught, not all children were effectively learning these virtues. At the same time, morality in youth was taking a dip in general. Thus, character education has been developing since the late 1980s and early 90s to have children identify, define, and utilize civil and democratic values. Though character education is becoming more widely accepted, it has some obstacles to overcome.
Skeptics of Character Education
While many would assume that parents would want children to learn good values and care for others, there are those who have reasons for opposing character education. Some people are...