Character Education

Should character education be taught in schools?

As I have learned about character education over the past year, I have been very adamant that I would introduce some sort of focus on practicing positive character traits and values in my classroom. I was aware that there might be issues with deciding on which traits to concentrate on and I did not want to create any specific lessons about the characteristics. My philosophy has been that it is best to discuss the values with my students. Another advantage of character education is to help unite my students to work toward a common goal of operating as a caring, functional classroom. It did not occur to me that some parents or community members might view character education programs as a conservative, religious agenda until reading Cornwall’s perspective that value-focused programs reinforce the majority’s social and cultural values (Evans, 2008, p. 343). Cornwall opposes character education programs for multiple reasons. A few of arguments against character education include 1) programs do not explain to children the reason for promoting certain values, 2) there is no way to track the success of programs, and 3) a better alternative is to transform how the classroom operates rather than focusing on the faults of people (Evans, 2008, pp. 343-347).

Cornwall’s first argument is not persuasive because it is nearly impossible to teach children anything without explaining why. If a teacher forgot, or purposefully did not explain the reason, then a student will likely ask. Cornwall assumes teachers or parents will respond to a child’s inquiry by stating, “because I say so.” If that is an adult’s response, then most children’s interest will decrease in learning whatever they are being taught. It is difficult to convince children of anything without providing ample reasoning. Children always have questions and (thankfully) are not satisfied until understanding why. Cornwall’s second argument is more convincing. There should absolutely be a method to track the success of character education programs. Of particular interest to me is what is the best method that students learn the values and what values are most worth teaching? Cornwall’s last point is thought provoking. I agree the system in place should not force people to make the better, responsible decision, but creating a better environment begins with people having values and morals. Additionally, this argument contradicts another argument that character education does not reflect the true complexity of choices in the real world (Evans, 20098, p. 344). If teachers and parents provide the most ideal system possible, then how will children learn decision-making skills to use once they are adults in society? Not everyone will be trying to protect them when they are adults.

Cornwall addresses important questions to consider, yet I still believe teaching values and character is beneficial for students. Character education helps teach students how to live by their values, even when there might be a hard decision to make. They have to analyze the benefits and consequences and decide on the option they think is best. Parents, teachers, and caregivers have the responsibility to guide children to learn why values and character traits are important and how these values help everyone live in a more harmonious society.

Reference

Evans, D. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and education practice. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Higher Education.

Educational Standards

One of the most controversial education debates centers around the issue of standards and curriculum decisions. Should standards be regulated at a local state level or by United States government at a federal level? There are advantages and disadvantages to regulation at both levels, although it seems everyone agrees a decision should be made so the United States can experience proper progress in education reform. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) passed in the early 2000s brought the topic to an even greater debate. One of the biggest issues of NCLB is that educational standards each state must meet were decided on at a federal level, but the act authorized states to decide if schools met the required proficiency level.

Support for federal regulation includes the rationale that national standards create a comparable and equitable educational experience for all students, support for the growing need to compete globally, and allow for better collaboration among educators across the country (Evans, 2008, pp. 7-9). These are very valid reasons, especially if states have not demonstrated they are not capable of solving these issues. However, a better approach might be to advise local officials about steps they can take to enact similar policies to work toward common educational goals. Main arguments against national standards is that centralizing educational decisions and authority results in a loss of policy makers understanding needs within the local community and the loss of valuable teachers and administrators (Evans, 2008, pp. 14-16). In a country as large and populated as the United States, how can the federal government properly and efficiently decide on the educational needs for all? While there should be similarities among states, it is not beneficial to students or educators for all decisions to be implemented at a national level.

National versus local regulation is a very complex subject that should involve a longer discussion. I am still undecided on my preference as I reflect on my experiences as a student and my desires as a teacher. In 6th grade I moved from California to Washington. I remember one day in a science class when I realized I had previously learned what my teacher was teaching that day. At first I thought it was great that I did not have to learn something new, but then I wondered what I was going to miss. Did my new class already cover a different topic I should know? This memory leads me to believe national standards will help prevent this from happening. As a teacher, I think about how easy it would be if there were national standards and regulations. It would be easier for me if could easily move around the country and not think about a new state teaching certification or creating a completely new set of lesson plans. But it is more important to me to feel like my professional opinion will make a difference. I also believe that my students’ parents should have easy access to how standards are decided and regulated. I doubt our voices will be heard on a national level. Overall, the foundations of a democratic society area more important to me than the advantages of the federal government making all the decisions.

Evans, D. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and education practice. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Higher Education.