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What they prize is docility, suggestibility; the child who will do what he is told; or even better, the child who will do what is wanted without even having to be told.
They value most in children what children least value in themselves. Were you to stand in Honolulu and make the same statement, however, you would probably be talking about one specific island in the chain — namely, the big one to your southeast. In the broad sense, it refers to almost anything that schools might try to provide outside of academics, especially when the purpose is to help children grow into good people.
In the narrow sense, it denotes a particular style of moral training, one that reflects particular values as well as particular assumptions about the nature of children and how they learn. Unfortunately, the two meanings of the term have become blurred, with the narrow version of character education dominating the field to the point that it is frequently mistaken for the broader concept.
My purpose in this article is to subject these programs to careful scrutiny and, in so doing, to highlight the possibility that there are other ways to achieve our broader objectives.
I address myself not so much to those readers who are avid proponents of character education in the narrow sense but to those who simply want to help children become decent human beings and may not have thought carefully about what they are being offered. Even when other values are also promoted — caring or fairness, say — the preferred method of instruction is tantamount to indoctrination.
The point is to drill students in specific behaviors rather than to engage them in deep, critical reflection about certain ways of being.
This is the impression one gets from reading articles and books by contemporary proponents of character education as well as the curriculum materials sold by the leading national programs. The impression is only strengthened by visiting schools that have been singled out for their commitment to character education.
A huge, multiethnic elementary school in Southern California uses a framework created by the Jefferson Center for Character Education. On an enormous wall near the cafeteria, professionally painted Peanuts characters instruct children: A small, almost entirely African American school in Chicago uses a framework created by the Character Education Institute.
At the end, the teacher drives home the lesson: The reason for using these words, she points out, is that by doing so we are more likely to get what we want.
A charter school near Boston has been established specifically to offer an intensive, homegrown character education curriculum to its overwhelmingly white, middle-class student body.
At weekly public ceremonies, certain children receive a leaf that will then be hung in the Forest of Virtue.
We could go on forever but we have to have a moment of silence and then a spelling test.
When President Clinton mentioned the importance of character education in his State of the Union address, the only specific practice he recommended was requiring students to wear uniforms. This seriatim approach is unlikely to result in a lasting commitment to any of these values, much less a feeling for how they may be related.
Nevertheless, such programs are taken very seriously by some of the same people who are quick to dismiss other educational programs, such as those intended to promote self-esteem, as silly and ineffective.
In general terms, what the evidence suggests is this: Extrinsic motivation, in other words, is not only quite different from intrinsic motivation but actually tends to erode it. Most relevant to character education is a series of studies showing that individuals who have been rewarded for doing something nice become less likely to think of themselves as caring or helpful people and more likely to attribute their behavior to the reward.
The lesson a child learns from Skinnerian tactics is that the point of being good is to get rewards. No wonder researchers have found that children who are frequently rewarded — or, in another study, children who receive positive reinforcement for caring, sharing, and helping — are less likely than other children to keep doing those things.
More deeply troubling are the fundamental assumptions, both explicit and implicit, that inform character education programs. Let us consider five basic questions that might be asked of any such program: At what level are problems addressed?
What is the underlying theory of human nature? What is the ultimate goal? Which values are promoted? And finally, How is learning thought to take place? One of the major purveyors of materials in this field, the Jefferson Center for Character Education in Pasadena, California, has produced a video that begins with some arresting images — quite literally.
The idea that social problems can be explained by the fact that traditional virtues are no longer taken seriously is offered by many proponents of character education as though it were just plain common sense.
But if people steal or rape or kill solely because they possess bad values — that is, because of their personal characteristics — the implication is that political and economic realities are irrelevant and need not be addressed.
Virtually all the landmark studies in this discipline have been variations on this theme. Set up children in an extended team competition at summer camp and you will elicit unprecedented levels of aggression.A considerate of contemporary management function of the employer-employee relationship The six journal articles that have been looked at stem from the.
A1C A form of hemoglobin used to test blood sugars over a period of time. ABCs of Behavior An easy method for remembering the order of behavioral components: Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence. How Not to Teach Values A Critical Look at Character Education.
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