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Character education is, at the most basic level, teaching children right from wrong. Thomas Lickona, a developmental psychologist and professor in the Education Department of the State University of New York at
“Character education is the deliberate, proactive effort to develop good character in kids — or, more simply, to teach children right from wrong. It assumes that right and wrong do exist, that there are objective moral standards that transcend individual choice — standards like respect, responsibility, honesty, and fairness — and that we should teach these directly to young people.”
But it’s not as simple as that may sound. ERIC, the Educational Resources Information Center, says this:
“‘Character education’ is an umbrella term used to describe many aspects of teaching and learning for personal development. Some areas under this umbrella are ‘moral reasoning/cognitive development’; ’social and emotional learning’; ‘moral education/virtue’; ‘life skills education’; ‘caring community’; ‘health education’; ‘violence prevention’; ‘conflict resolution/peer mediation’ and ‘ethic/moral philosophy’ (Character Education Partnership 1999, 3). As indicated by the variety of terms associated with it, character education is broad in scope and difficult to define precisely.
“Character education treats various aspects of moral education, civic education, and character development. Its multi-faceted composition makes character education a difficult concept to address in schools. Each component provides a slightly different slant on what is important, and what should be taught.”
Delegates to NEA’s Representative Assembly, the Association’s highest policy-making body, recognized both the importance and complexity of values/character education.
Without taking a position on any specific approach, the Representative Assembly directed the NEA to offer resources, such as those assembled here, to assist members, other educators, and concerned citizens in finding the approach that will work best in their communities.