A school delivering a language-based program for students grades 5-12 with complex profiles.

Advancing Character Education; Ted Sharp, Interim Executive Director

21 Mar 2018 11:31 AM | Anonymous

I want to share with everyone what highly effective schools do to advance character education and why it all matters! Walter Lippman, an American writer said that good character and ethical behavior are not transmitted through our genes rather we have to work at it. William James, an American philosopher contributed to this idea by telling us that we are who we are as a result of habits that we cultivate during the course of our life, particularly during our formative years.

The integration across school’s educational program of the core ethical values, including but not limited to respect, responsibility, honor, compassion, courage and empathy, is essential to the development of everyone that is part of the learning community (students, staff, parents). Our most important responsibility is to do all that we can to enable each child to be a person of great integrity and to understand that we all have an obligation to contribute to the common good.

Core ethical values are widely shared, pivotally important beliefs that form the basis of good character. They meet the tests of reversibility (Would you want to be treated this way?) and universality (Would you want all persons to act this way in a similar situation?) Core values tend to be interpersonal in nature (How we act with and towards others) rather than personal (Relating to individual issues).

Core ethical values may be defined as the basic principles, characteristics, and ideals that we use to make decisions and judgments in our lives. Many people will add to this definition stating that they are unchanging, essential tenets by which all of us are obliged to live.

Core ethical values should deal with issues of right and wrong, and they are a matter of obligation. They do not relate to issues of personal preference, taste, or opinion.

Core ethical values affirm our human dignity, help us to maintain our rights and the rights of others, and nurture the character development of young people. They are educationally significant because they may advance student academic achievement and prepare them to be good citizens, productive workers, and ethical human beings. Core ethical values not only define who we are, they exemplify our character traits.

Character traits are the inner qualities of an individual that are exemplified in behaviors or incline the will to choose right over wrong. Character traits are the basic features of who we are, on our own, in relationship with others, and through our relationships with others within our community, the nation, and the world. In essence, they enable us to do the right thing even when no one is watching. If our personal reputation is the most important thing we have, and I believe that it is, and if we want to be judged by the content of our character, and I believe that we do, then taking seriously our responsibility to assist young people to both model and to become stewards of good citizenship must be our highest priority.

The goal of highly effective schools is to make core ethical values an integral part of the school experience: this includes modeling ethical behavior, open dialogue about ideas and issues that have ethical significance, relationship building based on relational trust, and celebrating the school’s core ethical values, guiding principles, and shared standards of ethical conduct. This work is, of course, nuanced to the age, grade, and comprehension level of the students

I encourage you and your family and you and your colleagues to engage in the following exercise.

Make a list of the values you believe are most important to your life.

  • What do these values mean to you?
  • What characteristics do these values have in common?
  • Are they the same values that you would like to be taught in schools? Why or why not?
  • Why do you believe that it is important to teach core ethical values in school?

LPS is dedicated to helping each member of the school community to be a person of integrity and to contribute in significant and timely ways to the common good. It is to that end we focus on both the cognitive and the affective development of our students. This mission is most effectively achieved when the school and the parents work as partners in the education.

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