Character Education: Who Is Responsible?

Article excerpt

Character education is not a quick-fix program; it is a part of school life. The question becomes who is responsible for reinforcing age-old qualities of character? The classroom could be one arena to reinforce, model, and practice positive character traits on a daily basis; therefore, the teacher is central to character education. The processes (classroom strategies utilized and environment created) within the classroom are critical. Effective lesson plans for today are not the lesson plans of yesterday. If educators want students to exhibit positive character traits, it is obvious a different way of thinking regarding the educational system can allow students to "grow" with character and dignity, but only if educators provide an innovative teaching and learning environment that continuously incorporates our common core of character traits: respect, responsibility, fairness, and hard work.

Lately more and more politicians, state education departments, parents and schools are looking for ways to effectively incorporate character education. Why is this such a hard task when we are simply speaking of respect, responsibility, fairness, and hard work? If we merely open the doors of an effective school, the essence of character education is embedded throughout the curriculum and school building.

Benninga (1988) suggested that the ongoing debate about how to teach morals, ethics, values, or good character in the schools really comes down to a competition between the product desired and the process by which that product is to be achieved. Character education is not a quick-fix program; it is a part of school life. The question becomes who is responsible for reinforcing age-old qualities of character? Obviously there is no single panacea; however, in the "ideal world", families, schools, and communities would work in harmony to teach young people the positive character traits that would reduce violence in our society. As we know, consistency with this collaborative effort does not exist. The classroom could be one arena to reinforce, model, and practice positive character traits on a daily basis; therefore, the teacher is central to character education. The processes (classroom strategies utilized and environment created) within the classroom are critical.

Educators are faced with a multitude of research and pedagogy that must be dissected and analyzed in order to design the effective lessons that have character education embedded within their process. Designing an effective lesson is like a farmer selecting the best fertilizer to yield a productive harvest. The farmer does not stop his thinking at the point of the fertilizer but continues his thoughts to weeds. For if the farmer does not select the best herbicide to prevent the weeds from choking the growth of the seed, the harvest will be lost. Educators must do the same with their approach to designing effective lessons so that a harvest of productive citizens will be sowed versus a harvest of weeds. Effective lesson plans for today are not the lesson plans of yesterday. Educators want students to be well-rounded, productive citizens; therefore, when designing effective instructional strategies, they must mesh the web of effective research-based knowledge that will incorporate the reinforcement of character education. If educators want to "grow" a healthy harvest of students, they must first be willing to exhibit and incorporate the following:

* Generosity of time and spirit of commitment

* Respect for others and working together in an atmosphere of mutual trust

* Opportunities for service in the community provided to students

* Wisdom to understand what skills are needed to motivate students to learn

Character education can not be taught as a separate curriculum, but must be entwined in all curriculums.

Monroe (1997) states, "that all good work is worthy of our dedication. And the most worthy is what changes lives profoundly--in mind, body, and spirit. …