THE METHOD SCHOOLS BLOG

How Character Education Helps Kids Learn and Develop

Jan 23, 2017 1:49:32 PM
Dr. Jessica Spallino

Education isn't only about learning subjects such as math, English, and science. A more comprehensive definition of education addresses the emotions, personality, and character as well. Parents today are looking for schools that help their kids become healthy, balanced, and civic-minded adults. This is why character education is so important. It provides a holistic approach to learning and development. Let's explore how character education helps kids learn and develop crucial values.  

 

What is Character Education?

The most basic definition of character education is an approach to education that incorporates values, ethics, emotional maturity and a sense of civics. To many, this sounds simple, straightforward and even self-evident. However, modern education has mostly developed in another direction, one that focuses entirely on students' academic and, to a lesser extent, physical development (e.g. physical education, sports). In the modern world, however, parents and educators increasingly recognize the need for a new yet traditional approach to education, one that emphasizes character as well as intellectual development.

 

Components of Character Education

There's no precise formula for a curriculum that incorporates character education. As with any approach to learning, there are different theories on how to instill positive values and character traits. This also differs according to culture and the age of the students. There are, however, certain general principles that character education advocates agree upon. The 11 Principles of Character Education as outlined by Character.org provides a helpful summary of this idea. 

  • Educators promote core ethical and performance values to instill good character in students.
  • A comprehensive definition of character, which includes thoughts, emotions, and actions.
  • Educators use an intentional, proactive, and comprehensive approach to character development.
  • To support this process, schools create caring and supportive communities.
  • Educators encourage students to develop morally and provide opportunities to grow morally.
  • Schools create a challenging academic environment to helps students develop character. 
  • Educators foster self-motivation in students.
  • Educators and all school staff are part of an ethical learning community and adhere to the same values that they teach.
  • Schools foster leadership values.
  • Schools engage parents and other members of the community as partners in character building efforts.
  • Schools regularly assess their culture, their staff and their overall success at fostering character development. 

As you can see from this list, character education involves a comprehensive approach that includes a robust academic curriculum, a dedicated staff, and a partnership with parents and the wider community. This is a more challenging approach to education than one that focuses primarily on academics. Building character is a more complicated and wider-reaching goal. It's an approach to education, however, with the potential to yield outstanding results. Rather than simply teaching students information, it seeks to help them develop into ethical, responsible citizens.

 

The Role of Educators in Character Building 

There are several common objections to character education, based on some natural but misguided beliefs about the proper role of schools in developing character. People often assume that parents rather than educators are responsible for fostering values in children. While parents certainly have an immense role to play in this regard, they can't carry this responsibility alone. 

Children, once they reach school age, spend a great deal of time apart from their parents. It's true that children, by the time they start out in school, have already developed many personality traits. These are far from set in stone, however. As kids interact with their peer and teachers, they have many opportunities to learn valuable lessons.  

It's true that children, by the time they start out in school, have already developed many personality traits. These are far from set in stone, however. As kids interact with their peer and teachers, they have many opportunities to learn valuable lessons. Educators who ignore character-building are overlooking a crucial opportunity to help students grow into responsible adults. 

A child who spends six or more hours at school every day learns many lessons that have nothing to do with academics. He or she learns to play, share, socialize, and resolve conflicts. Too often, children learn these lessons haphazardly or according to the personal preferences of a teacher or staff member who is nearby. Character education systematizes these lessons, allowing students to develop a moral compass. 

The goal of character education isn't to supplant parents' influence but to support it. Under this model, educators work closely with parents and the rest of the community as partners in character development. 

 

Character Education: the Future of Education?

The principles of character education are certainly not new. In many ways, they are consistent with more traditional ideas about education. At the same time, modern educators who embrace this model aren't trying to recapture the past. They are, rather, seeking to create an environment that helps students face the challenges of living in a complex and fast-changing world. 

Parents, as well as students, enjoy the benefits of character education. In a society where influences such as the media and internet constantly barrage children with messages, it's more important than ever to provide guidance and balance, both at home and in the classroom. It's unrealistic to expect parents on their own to watch and guide children all day long.

Many parents recognize the need to raise their children in a community that fosters important values. Traditional influences, such as neighbors, religious institutions, and local community organizations are harder to find today. People spend long hours working, move frequently, change jobs, and are increasingly fragmented in their own social circles. Schools provide one of the few stable influences on children's' lives. Character education is a model that provides students with core values along with academic instruction. This type of education is essential for raising the next generation. 

 

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