A few thoughts about character education

//A few thoughts about character education

The idea that schools should be educating students’ character has been gathering momentum in recent years. But the once distant drums have become increasingly urgent; politicians and professors, hucksters and headteachers, all kinds of apparatchiks – even the occasional edu-blogger – have all waded into the debate. Unusually for me, I’ve mainly stood back, listened and pondered. Last year I visited Kings Leadership Academy in Warrington and although I was hugely impressed by much of what I saw, philosophically I tend towards the belief that teaching character isn’t really what I think education is about. But until now, I haven’t really been able to articulate exactly why.

Happily, over the past few days, various ideas have started to crystallise into something I can almost grasp. So, in an effort to wrestle my thoughts into some sort of coherence I’ve decided share two of my ideas with you.

1. What character?

We all agree that a good character is, well, good. But what should this include? Is a growth mindset part of a good character? Is grit, tenacity, resilience, or whatever you want to call it? Or, is character more about being polite, well-mannered, able to smoothly navigate through the world? Or might it be to do with morality, ethics and conscience? Is it about doing the ‘right thing’? And if it is, who decides what’s right? Should we be guided by so-called British values of fair play, tolerance and self-depreciation? On some level, all of these things are desirable, but are they teachable?

Greg Ashman’s review of  Eric Kalenze’s new book, Education is Upside Down got me thinking. As teachers, obviously we can’t do everything. Like it or not, some schooling is going to be about acquiring the knowledge in order to be able to do stuff. Kalenze offers the intriguing solution if we get students to struggle with troublesome concepts, work hard and delay gratification as they work towards examinations we will by simultaneously and implicitly developing their ability to acquire these traits without having to teach anything explicit. And these traits may well be the very ones which best prepare young people for higher education, careers and having a fulfilling life.

For me the either/or nature of character vs. academic learning was always problematic. Yes, of course, you can fall into the ‘and fallacy‘ and do a bit of both, but you can only ever have one top priority. If you prioritise X then you automatically take away from your ability to do Y. Any attempt to expend some resources on a second priority prevents those resources being spent on the top priority. But maybe by doing one, we’ll just get the other?

Of course, if you see character education as overturning the bourgeois state and fomenting revolution, then this might not be for you. But it’s a thought.

2. Morality stems from accountability

Another question which has troubled be is, where does character come from? Is it innate or acquired? Might there be a gene for good character (or at least a set of heritable traits) or is it soaked up along with mother’s milk? In short, does character a result of nature or nurture. Well, you’ll probably be unsurprised to find it’s a bit of both.

Apparently one in every hundred men is a psychopath. (Interestingly, the figure is much lower for women.) Evidence appears to suggest that being a psychopath isn’t a choice or the result of some early childhood trauma, but a genetically heritable condition. Psychopaths may or may not end up as serial killers but they do all lack moral emotions like guilt, shame and compassion. They just don’t care what others think about them. Now, if psychopathy is heritable it follows that the ability to experience these emotions must also, at least to some degree, be inherited. Further, it suggests they have evolved through natural selection because they have some evolutionary advantage.

But what? In The Righteous Mind, Jonathon Haidt suggests the answer is accountability. He says people try harder to look right than be right; what others think of us is more important that what we think of ourselves. Phil Tetlock came up with three conditions under which social pressure would encourage people to want to be right rather than look right. They are:

  1. the knowledge that we will be accountable to an audience
  2. the audience’s views must be unknown
  3. the belief that the audience is well-informed and interested in accuracy.

If those conditions are met, people tend to do the right thing. Research into self-conscious has shown that the idea of self-esteem is dodgy at best. People who identify as having high self-esteem actually believe they stand high in the esteem of others; they think well of themselves because others think well of them. In an experiment, participants who identified themselves as possessing high self-esteem saw that sense of self deteriorate when they saw the unflattering rankings of a hidden audience as they spoke about themselves to camera. As Haidt puts it, “They might indeed have steered by their own compass, but they didn’t realise that their compass tracked public opinion, not true north.”

This all suggests that we’re only likely to display good character if we’re held accountable for our behaviour. Most people will conform to social norms and what is acceptable quickly becomes acceptable. So, if we want students to develop positive character traits we should make sure that the culture of our schools is pretty intolerant of indolence, rudeness and general arsing about. This is clearly the role of school leaders. Individual teachers are powerless to change school culture but maybe the best thing they can do is maintain the very highest standards of behaviour within their sphere of influence.

In conclusion

I might be hopelessly wonky in my thinking but it seems to be that developing students’ character depends not on attempting to explicitly teach some ephemeral set of non-cognitive skills but on a combination of high expectations, accountability and modelling.

Maybe the best way to teach resilience is to give students challenging work to do.

Maybe the best way to teach respect and politeness is to model it.

Maybe the best way to teach students how to be functional, happy citizens is to set up systems which hold them to account for their behaviour.

If were to do all that we might arrive at a pretty terrific best.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

2015-05-10T14:42:51+00:00April 27th, 2015|leadership|


  1. chrismwparsons April 27, 2015 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    Yes… character education isn’t the result of what we teach… it’s the result of how we teach.

  2. Julie Rees April 27, 2015 at 10:13 pm - Reply

    That is what we call Values based Education and it has been here for a long while in many of our schools.

  3. Isabelle Brent April 27, 2015 at 11:00 pm - Reply

    Thanks for such an interesting article. Several years ago I think ‘ethos’ was the buzzword that ‘character’ refers to today (except the latter is more individualistic). I agree that character and academic learning is not either/or. However a system where value is measured in terms of academic qualifications makes it difficult to take seriously less quantifiable qualities. I can imagine Ofsted trying to come up with measures of character or examinations in it which is quite a frightening prospect!

  4. Abena Bailey April 28, 2015 at 2:27 am - Reply

    Hardly the crux of your argument but this sent a shiver up my spine: “…it suggests they have evolved through natural selection because they have some evolutionary advantage.” Does it? Unless there is a trend suggesting the ratio is increasing, such a low number makes me think (hope?) it’s being phased out rather than in.

    In any case, I think you’re conclusions are spot on especially in light of the fact that experience tells me you can indeed only focus on one thing at a time without the scales tipping. Having worked in different areas of the UK and various countries between Europe and Asia, I suspect culture, family and (a wider) community (than the school alone) have more of a bearing on character, although schools can promote / contribute to this as the microcosm they are.
    However, I do also think there are positives to including this in a curriculum. Whether this is through upholding deadlines and accountability (in line with your thinking) or explicitly addressing it through programs such as PSHE or the IB Learner Profile, I can’t see it as a waste of time. What I do see as a waste of time are meaningless activities used to tick a box, and I’ve seen this far too often in schools. I wish I could remember the name of that program one of my ex-schools bought in at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds; it consisted of endless worksheets that certainly made it look like the PELTS (???) were being addressed, while the students and teachers groaned at the endless, pointless exercises.
    On the other hand, I think raising awareness (how’s that for an unmeasurable!) of Dweck’s Mindset can be very effective in encouraging students to recognise effort does pay off, and I’ve had conversations with students who feel like a light has been switched on for them after exploring her theories. I won’t pretend it always leads to complete turnarounds in work ethic or results, but at least people know their choice to not complete / turn up on time / be present is indeed a ‘choice’ rather than a predestined box they can’t escape. I think it’s rather empowering for learners (myself included).
    So too do I see that taking the time to encourage simple kindness in the classroom pays off. If I get to October and hear objections from students about working with others (or other similarly ‘unkind’ words), it inevitably is one of those classes where I felt we just had to get on with the curriculum rather than taking time to focus on how we interact with each other.
    I realise for some these examples might not come under ‘character education’ but this is my understanding of it. I’m interested to hear others’.

    • David Didau April 28, 2015 at 6:50 am - Reply

      I think maybe I was unclear: I meant that shame, guilt and compassion are evolutionarily advantageous. It’s interesting though that psychopathy should have stabilised at 1/100 (for men). Obviously that are very clear advantages to being able to disregard the feelings of others but the ratio would suggest that any more tips the balance against. I would guess that greater than 1/100 creates a situation where there is no trust and carriers of the psychopathy genes are selected out. I’m sure someone, somewhere has done some research…

      Anyway, thanks for your comments.

      • Abena Bailey April 28, 2015 at 12:33 pm - Reply

        Ah yes, my misreading and apologies. This article may be interesting in light of the discussion around self-regulation as a facet of character education: http://goo.gl/XISRi1

  5. Martin Robinson April 28, 2015 at 9:46 am - Reply

    And then we get into the discussion about teacher behaviour and character both in and out of the classroom…

    • David Didau April 28, 2015 at 7:11 pm - Reply

      My behaviour has always been awful both in and out of the classroom 😉

  6. David April 28, 2015 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    I teach at a Jesuit school, so this is an interesting issue. The original model St. Ignatius utilized provided opportnities for both character development and academics, but only because of the curriculum and religious aspect of the schools. The humanistic curriculum was chosen BECAUSE it imparted moral lesson and values.

    As Robert Schwickerath, SJ wrote for the old Catholic Encyclopedia in 1903: “The education system of the Society always aimed at a thorough general training in a few branches. Four characteristic points are discernable in this training: it is to be thorough, prolonged, general, simple. It must be thorough; for superficial knowledge, smattering, is not training. It must be prolonged; for thoroughness cannot be effected in a short time. Time is as essential for maturing a man’s mind and character, as it is for ripening a choice fruit; one may bake an apple in a few moments, but one cannot ripen it in that time. Education must, in this regard, follow the laws of nature. Time and prolonged and patient efforts are absolutely necessary in order to produce any success in education. In the third place this training is to be general, not professional; its aim is the man, not the specialist; it is the foundation on which the professional training is to be built up. It is, in other words, a liberal training; it has to cultivate the ideal, that which is really human and permanent in life. What is useful and practical will be cared for in time, and, as a rule, is sufficiently looked after. Lastly, this training must be simple, that is, it must be based on a very few well-related branches; if too many disconnected subjects are treated, thoroughness becomes absolutely impossible.”

    In the public schools with a secular curriculum, the idea of teaching character becomes very difficult–teachers have so much on their plates already (and let’s not forget the movement to teach “grit”–or is that character?). Yes, some character-building can take place through the academic environment, but I doubt teachers should be asked to add this to the things they must do.

    Now, if we were talking about a revitalization of the Great Books movement, then maybe we could talk about character….

    • David Didau April 28, 2015 at 7:13 pm - Reply

      Ah, but which ‘great books’? I’d advocate a study of The Prince but I’m sure St Ignatius wouldn’t have approved.

      • David April 28, 2015 at 7:42 pm - Reply

        I think the Great Books programs at universities like St. John’s College in MD and the Unvierity of Notre Dame provide a template. While I disagree with his “clash of civiliations” thesis, Samuel Huntigton did make a strong argument that individuals living in the West need an understanding of what the West has meant or why it did what it did (for better or worse) and then work on developing empathy for other cultures through World Lit.

        I think we all tend to muddle through right now and hope we introduce students to enough in order to spark an interest. But then, Father Schwickerath would have called that a “smattering”….

  7. Leah @LearntSchool April 28, 2015 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    Each teacher can only “have one top priority”- yes and what if each teacher defined this and taught everything consistently from that point? Does the teacher want to bring out creativity? inspiration? show students they are wonderful? foster connections between students and the wider world? guide the breakdown of huge projects? facilitate self-directed learning? coach skills/knowledge? lead student reflection? Pick ONE and teach your thing from there.

    “Individual teachers are powerless to change school culture”- as a student I never knew what ‘school culture’ was (I knew what the head teacher thought it was!) but, I think you’re underestimating how vastly different one group of 30 students will behave with different teachers. Teachers do have power to bring out what they want from students in their own classrooms IF they teach from their own top priority.

    “Set up systems which hold them to account for their behaviour” – disagree. Life holds students to account for their behaviours. We don’t need a system for this. If a student doesn’t show up for a lesson, the student is held to account by missing out on that lesson. Done. No?

    This is why teachers try to ‘look right’ rather than ‘be right’ according to conditions you give: (1) Teachers are not accountable to their audience because they are not able to make their own guarantees, the audience is chosen for them and no-one in the audience freely opted-in to receive the defined training and guarantees of that specific teacher. We can not hold teachers to account in this situation. Condition 1 fails. (2) Not sure. (3) It’s difficult for teachers to believe that their whole audience is well informed and interested in accuracy because of point 1.

    Finally, (ah! this is a long reply!) perhaps students not liking themselves -because they believe others don’t like them… following your excellent argument above- is a curse of spending around 10 years with teachers who are trying to ‘look right’ but always failing because no teacher will satisfy a random group of 30 students. Students talk so badly about teachers they are forced to spend time with; laughing when they muck up, teasing them, gloating in their stress (this will be hard to hear, but it’s true and an obvious fall out of our system) so, isn’t it completely natural that students fear others say these terrible things about them behind their back? This thought, based on evidence from school, sinks self-esteem through the floor.


    • David Didau April 28, 2015 at 7:20 pm - Reply

      1. The ‘top priority’ comment wasn’t really aimed at teachers, but at education in the round. I’m nervous about the idea of letting teachers prioritise whatever they fancy.

      2. Of course a teacher makes a great deal of difference to the culture of a class, just not a whole school. I’m really not underestimating the extent to which children choose to behave differently around a school (in fact I’ve written a couple of posts on this issue.) I’m inclined to argue that the size of this difference correlates closely with the quality of the school.

      3. You’re welcome to disagree but the evidence without accountability society devolves into chaos. No one wants that.

      4. Not sure what you point is here.

      5. I think you’re arguing for mutual respect – are you? This is why I talk about the need for modelling the behaviour we want.

  8. Tom April 28, 2015 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    I am interested to read:

    “if we want students to develop positive character traits we should make sure that the culture of our schools is pretty intolerant of indolence, rudeness and general arsing about. This is clearly the role of school leaders. Individual teachers are powerless to change school culture”

    I believe character (or the appearance of it) can be imprinted on to pupils through a rigorous and systematic use of (what I’ll call) ‘ethos’. The expectations the school, as an institution, has of it’s staff and pupils. I always give the examples of other organisations which clearly have a strong ethos – the Military, Disney, Apple etc…These places have strong codes of conduct that allow the behaviours they want to promote almost seep in to their staff. And often these practices stay with individuals long after they have left the organisation.

    This is what I think a school should be doing, and in my mind at least, is what I would call ‘ethos’ or ‘teaching character’. It probably should be taught explicitly at first and made clear to any new staff / pupils, but then peer pressure, wanting to conform and eventually – habit, mean it can be allowed imprint it’s behaviours in the background.

    I’ve moved schools recently and find my new schools approach quite disconcerting. There are no or very few ‘rules’ as such, each teacher is expected to establish their own expectations at the start of a session. Thus there is no over arching ‘ethos’ is being delivered. It is purely up to members of staff to attempt to introduce one in their ‘sphere of influence’ – which for me is my classroom.

    In my experience – it’s not working. I see pupils who in my last school could have reached a B or so failing their exams because they lack rigour or self confidence though mostly because they haven’t put in the effort and I cannot bring enough pressure to bare on them to really push them on as any attempt becomes primarily personal and not me acting as a member of an institution.

    My point really then is – is my current frustration with the pupils lack of ‘character’ something I can change (I have brought in explicitly teaching ‘growth mindset’ to my younger classes but it’s too early to judge if this has any impact) or should I look for the ‘School Leaders’ to create a base set of expectations and then rigorously inform them.

    To sum up; is character something an individual teacher can engender, or is it exposure to an institutions will that imprints it on an individual?

  9. David Didau April 28, 2015 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    Our problem here is that I profoundly disagree that character can be imprinted. You can certainly get it’s ‘appearance’ though and that’s depends on every individual teacher supporting the enforce engendered by the school.

    • chrismwparsons April 28, 2015 at 9:21 pm - Reply

      So if we’re going to say that character is more than just an habitual pattern of behaviour… which could be imprinted…

      …Then we need to see it as a compelling disposition to act (or perhaps in some cases just the capacity to act?) in such a way.

      What is the root compulsion of this disposition then…? A compelling, internalised belief system? A genetic propensity? An overwhelming sense of social expectation…?

      • David Didau April 28, 2015 at 9:29 pm - Reply

        The latter – it’s all about what’s acceptable.

  10. […] a new post on character education, David Didau articulates this issue of priority and the problem of trying to teach both academics […]

  11. Time-Travelling Teacher April 29, 2015 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    I absolutely agree that: “…developing students’ character depends not on attempting to explicitly teach some ephemeral set of non-cognitive skills but on a combination of high expectations, accountability and modelling.” Surely it is the case that we are already giving our kids a “Character Education”, whether we realise it or not, and we should aim to at least do it with some sort of conscious idea of the character traits we are helping them to develop.

    Isn’t it obvious that we have reached the point of feeling that we have to treat character as some sort of add-on, or even something needing separate lessons, because current educational culture and practises, driven by pressure from the government and wider society, mean that we have spent years busily educating good character traits out of our children?

    I think that you hit the nail squarely on the head when you write:

    “Maybe the best way to teach resilience is to give students challenging work to do.

    Maybe the best way to teach respect and politeness is to model it.

    Maybe the best way to teach students how to be functional, happy citizens is to set up systems which hold them to account for their behaviour.”

    This is exactly it. While we have low expectations of the children’s ability to learn the content (quickly enough to keep up with the packed SOW anyway) and the responsibility for success lies entirely with teachers, children have no need for resilience. They will remain helpless and dependent while we “protect” them.

    We have allowed the link between (their own) hard work and achievement to be broken and we need to be very wary what we are passing on in the way of character when the behaviour of the adults around them is driven by overwork, stress, paranoia and the pressure to not allow them to fail at any price. We should have no doubt that they are indeed learning the character traits that we are modelling.

    We are actively preventing our children from developing good character traits.

    Just like it is not possible to have courage if you are never afraid, you won’t develop resilience or independence if it is not possible that you fail.

    They fail anyway, of course, and in a much more real and lasting sense, but at least it won’t affect the GCSE pass rate!

    Thank you for such an interesting post. This has been occupying a lot of my thoughts of late.

  12. suecowley April 29, 2015 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    On the psychopathy question, you might be interested to read the work of Dr Stuart Brown, who did a study into the history of a group of young men who were in prison for murder. He found that one common factor (among 95% of those in the study) was a play deficit when they were young. You can get a taste of his work here: http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Consequences_of_Play_Deprivation#Lifetime_Review_and_Data_Supporting_the_Consequences_of_Play_Deprivation.

    On character, no offence to schools but as a parent I’m pretty sure that it’s mainly me and my partner who have an influence and impact on the way our children’s characters develop, whether this is via heritable traits, or simply in the way that we have brought them up. Percentage wise, they spend most of their time not in school, and even when they are in school they are in a group of 30 or so other children.

    We had a very interesting chat last night about how they should deal with the Christian bits of school when we have brought them up as atheist/humanists. It’s very interesting to talk to my children about how morality is NOT necessarily about the belief that someone is ‘watching’ and that you will be held ‘accountable’, e.g. doing ‘good’ in the religious sense. I’d also imagine their peer group and local environment has as much of or probably more influence than their teachers in how they develop?

    On the character question generally, I’m pretty certain that, while school might be able to have some positive influence, you are right that it can’t be ‘taught’ and even when we do try to ‘teach it’, we don’t always appear to have a great deal of success. We have a tendency to focus on the ‘ended up in prison’ end of the character spectrum, but topically, if we look at politicians the ‘rigorous ethos’ of some private schools appears to develop quite a strange kind of character as well (if you’ll excuse me for saying so).

    • David Didau April 29, 2015 at 1:46 pm - Reply

      Hi Sue, I have several concerns about Brown’s study – the biggest of which is that it’s entirely correlational. I bet you’d find that pretty much the entire prison population was play deprived along with huge chunks of society who aren’t in prison. Take a look at Without Conscience by Robert Hare.

      The evidence from behaviour genetics strongly indicates that parental (Shared) influence has, on average 0% influence on adult behaviour. Non-shared influence (e.g. school and peer grounds) generally has between 20-50% influence on adult behaviour, whereas the effects of heritability account for between 50-80%. The reason children end up like their parents is because they share 50% of their genes.

      Now obviously, parental influence has a big impact on children when they’re children. But it wears off almost entirely by adulthood. And you’re right, epigenetics studies have shown pretty conclusively that of all the environmental factors, peer groups has the strongest, most durable effect. I’d really recommend reading Judith Rich Harris’s The Nurture Assumption – it really is a fascinating read and I get the impression that she’s a woman after your own heart.

      I think from your final paragraph that we kinda agree on this. I have very little confidence that schools can ‘teach’ character in a way that lasts into adulthood. There are numerous studies showing that knowledge of ethics and moral reasoning just makes us better at posthoc rationalisation and justification. But what we can do is use expectation ,role-modelling and accountability to create better experiences of school which will also make it easier to teach what can actually be taught.

      • suecowley April 29, 2015 at 2:13 pm - Reply

        Thanks for your reply and for the book recommendations, David. If parental upbringing has zero influence, beyond their genes, what does this say for the parents of adopted children, I wonder? If parents have zero influence on character, why would teachers or schools be able to have any influence at all, since they spend far less time with children than their parents do? Maybe the influence of school is more about the peer group in which children end up, rather than the school itself? Also, I’m wondering whether ‘character’ actually equates to ‘behaviour’ or whether it is far wider than that? Thanks. 🙂

        • David Didau April 29, 2015 at 2:29 pm - Reply

          I think you’re right – the biggest factor in non-shared influence almost certainly is peer groups. The influence of teachers is very difficult to isolate, but maybe schools can have an influence on peer culture?

          I really don’t think character is much wider than how we behave. It is always our actions rather than our intentions on which we’re judge. Faith without deeds is dead.

          • suecowley April 29, 2015 at 2:41 pm

            I’m still troubled by what you said about parents having 0% influence on behaviour. If that were true, then it basically wouldn’t matter how I brought my children up, would it? And we know as educators that this simply isn’t true, don’t we? I mean we can blatantly see the difference between children brought up to be polite, and behave appropriately, and those who aren’t.

            On the character = behaviour thing, the issue I have is that one person’s ‘I dislike this behaviour’ is another person’s ‘this is what proper character means’ (as per the politicians I mentioned earlier).

          • chrismwparsons April 29, 2015 at 2:53 pm

            I agree with you Sue about how it feels implausible to imagine that all parental influence is purely genetic as opposed to behavioural conditioning (if that equates to measurable character), but David was saying that this is the lasting effect on them as adults, rather than the character they exhibit as school children.

            I’m carrying out an extensive longitudinal experiment on this, having 4 sons between the ages of 8 and 18… I’d like to say that I’ll have some conclusive findings in a few years, but I’ll never really know whether it was genetic or upbringing even then 🙁

            Now where were those identical twins I was going to split up from birth…?


          • David Didau April 29, 2015 at 4:46 pm

            It matters greatly how we bring children up – a safe, loving environment makes for a much happier childhood. it’s just that apart from the most extreme cases of neglect and abuse, this has no effect on adulthood. I obviously agree that polite, ‘well-brought-up’ children make teaching much easier and that’s probably reason enough to do it.

            And you’re right to say that the character education discussion is about a broad set of characteristics most people like. That opens up a debate on cultural relativism and that hardly ever ends well 😉

  13. […] my last post I suggested 3 conditions needed for an accountability process to create conditions for teachers to […]

    • chemistrypoet April 29, 2015 at 8:34 pm - Reply

      It strikes me that schools are a strange community. They are really not like the rest of the Community (although a part of it), nor are they very similar to Universities, and definitely not like the work place (unless you work in a school…but then your experience of the school will be different to that of the students). Schools require a certain structure and framework to stand any chance of working; and this is predicated on the students not being fully formed adults. The characteristics required of the students in school are not the characteristics required of them out of school, or in their future lives. Their circumstances will change, and this will require them to change their characteristics (to ‘grow up’). Politicians have made an error of logic in assuming that as schools are places that children learn, they must also be the places where the children learn how to be good citizens (and good people). As you outline above, we don’t really know how someone becomes a good person, and would probably endlessly debate what are the characteristics of a good person.

      Additionally, children behave differently depending on where they are. They will not be the same at home as they are at school, nor when they are alone with their peers. In fact, they are usually very sophisticated about this (and will behave differently for different teachers).

      Explicitely teaching character would therefore appear to be pointless and unnecessary. Modelling good behaviour (e.g. mutual respect), and teaching information that will help students understand society, however, seems sensible.

  14. […] A few thoughts about character education – David Didau: The Learning Spy. […]

  15. […] A Few Thoughts About Resilience and Character by @LearningSpy. […]

  16. jillberry102 May 7, 2015 at 10:58 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this David.

    Have recently read the novel ‘The Circle’ by Dave Eggars – have you read it? The comments above about how people try harder to LOOK right than BE right reminded me of that. It has a lot to say about transparency and morality. I’d be interested to know what you thought of it if you have read it.

  17. […] curriculum time to a programme designed to teach a set of generic skills. This is very much my position on character education in general. Maybe we can sum up with […]

  18. […] David Didau, Educator/Writer, Great Britain – Mention of above Ashman review at ‘The Lea… […]

  19. […] The second suggestion is social-emotional learning strategies. Time spent trying to explicitly teach students to manage emotions, establish positive relationships, and make responsible decisions is time that could be spent of teaching an academic curriculum. For this time to be worthwhile it would have to be both successful and necessary. There’s little evidence that such programmes do teach the skills they intend students to learn. What’s more, teaching an academic curriculum might be a better way to incidentally model and practise the skills …. […]

  20. Ed Cadwallader August 1, 2015 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    “So, if we want students to develop positive character traits we should make sure that the culture of our schools is pretty intolerant of indolence, rudeness and general arsing about.”

    I agree wholeheartedly with this statement and it provokes an interesting follow up question: “what is the culture of our schools tolerant of?”

    If, as you imply, schools should concern themselves with delivering an academic curriculum rigorously then they tolerate the idea that a person’s worth is derived from their academic ability. You might argue that your business is teaching each according to their ability, not judging worth to society, but place in the hierarchy is what concerns us primates and it’s pretty clearly signaled by giving A*s to some children and Fs to others.

    So if what constitutes good character is formed by what schools deem acceptable behaviour then humiliation of the academically weak is nothing to be ashamed of.

    • David Didau August 1, 2015 at 4:01 pm - Reply

      That’s a bit of stretch and requires some fancy footwork in order to arrive at from what I’ve written but then folk always surprise with what they end up inferring, so you could be right…

      • Ed Cadwallader August 1, 2015 at 7:28 pm - Reply

        I thought you meant that if we make the kids behave and get on their work then their characters will turn out alright. Is it really a stretch to say this involves humiliating the kids who are academically weakest and sending a message to everyone else that it’s ok to humiliate them?

        • David Didau August 2, 2015 at 8:51 am - Reply

          Yes, that’s a huge stretch.

          • Ed Cadwallader August 5, 2015 at 9:33 am

            How do kids who leave school with all Us feel?

  21. […] and humility. These seem like pretty good things to be, but can we teach them? I’ve argued here that perhaps we can, by example and through asking children to persevere with challenging content, […]

Constructive feedback is always appreciated

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: