Character Education: the Moral Life of Schools

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The Moral Life of Schools1

Character Education: the Moral Life of Schools
Ruth Patterson
University of West Georgia
Dr. Hema Ramanathan
MGED 7271
Issues in Middle Grades Education

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This paper will examine what role educators and schools play in forming the moral character of the middle school child. It will focus on the importance of character education and the effectiveness of strategies, techniques and methods used to teach children values and morals. The impact of moral education on school improvement and success and student success and achievement will also be discussed. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr. "The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically ...Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education” ( As evident from the above quote, the moral education of children is a matter of deep concern to everyone from parents to civic and religious leaders. It has been a continuous subject of controversy throughout the history of American schools. According to the online Education Encyclopedia, character education’s focus is to assist children in learning the morals and virtues (such as honesty, responsibility, compassion and respect for others) that will allow them to live good lives and become productive, contributing members of society. In this view, moral education should contribute not only to the students as individuals, but also to the social cohesion of a community ( All experienced educators have firsthand knowledge of why character education should be an important part of the middle school curriculum. I agree with Sanford McDonnell when he stated in his article Character is Destiny (2010) that “today in America there are far too many 12-year-olds pushing drugs, 14-year-olds having babies, 16-year-olds killing each other, and young people of all ages admitting to lying, cheating and stealing at epidemic numbers. Crime

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and violence is everywhere, as well as unethical behavior in business, the professions, and in government.” He strongly believes that “we have a crisis of character all across America that is threatening to destroy the goodness, which is the very foundation of our greatness.” He thinks the answer to this crisis is getting back to the virtues of good character in every part of our nation. Most supporters of character education agree that it is the primary responsibility of the family to teach their children values and morals; however there are some students who live in homes with parents who are not good role models. In the April, 2000 issue of Early Childhood Today, Thomas Lickona states that “historically, character formation of the young was shared by three institutions: home, religion, and school. These worked together to pass on a legacy of values to shape the character of the next generation. The family lays the foundation, which gets built upon by the other institutions.” He further explains that, “adults have to come together to maximize the chance that we'll have a generation of young people who are mature enough and good enough to build a collective future in the next century and that it is not the job of schools, families, or religious institutions alone.” According to Wiles, Bondi and Wiles (2006), “Character Education in some form has been mandated in all fifty states, and the federal government (both Congress and the president) proposed funding in 1999 for specific character education programs. The typical middle or secondary school now teaches students how to schedule a balanced day, drive a car, balance a checkbook, have sex (sex education), not have sex (abstinence programs), identify sexual

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abuse, and avoid HIV.” So in some form or other, schools today...
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