To the Editor:
For those of us who have been involved in implementing a character or social/emotional-learning program, the Report Roundup summary “Study Finds Few Benefits in Character Education” (Oct. 27, 2010) was sobering. We can only hope that further research will reveal what steps can be taken to render such programs more effective.
But in some ways, the findings should not surprise us. Those of us who have been in schools for a number of years, whether as teachers or administrators, know that the most important factor in instilling character in students is not courses, but school culture. It is only when students are part of a true community in which respect, compassion, and active concern for others permeate the air they breathe that those qualities can be learned. And the foundation upon which such a community is built is, of course, how the adults treat each other and each student. Only when character education is embedded in such an environment will it ever have a chance of succeeding.
A version of this article appeared in the December 01, 2010 edition of Education Week as ‘Character Education’ Findings Sobering, But Not Surprising