Character Education: Learned and Reinforced

I just returned from Washington D.C., where I attended a character-education partnership conference. Yes, there is an entire industry dedicated to teaching character-development traits to young children. This is pretty amazing (and sad) when you think about it.

10-30-13-pub-notes.gifTwenty years ago character development was something that happened and evolved naturally from the relationships we had with our family, friends and community. Our behavior and sense of being were guided and built around strong Christian values, our unwavering belief and confidence in the Golden Rule. Today, character-education traits like respect, honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, kindness, fairness, caring and citizenship are now introduced and taught to young children just as the basics of reading writing and arithmetic.

The problem with teaching character by rote is that the traits of good character should not be presented and considered as mere suggestions or options. Character-education curriculums in the classroom were designed to promote, reinforce and reward these values and behavior. This is where the success of these programs has been. They were never intended to take the place of a loving nurturing family environment.

In my opinion, it is the deterioration of the family unit and family values that are driving this need to supplement character education in our young people today. I applaud the efforts made in this direction. However, my real concern is what we are now teaching them in the classroom is not what they are seeing or experiencing in real life.

Where are their role models?

Where are our stellar examples of cooperation, honesty, integrity and responsibility from our government leaders that they should be following? Are they not supposed to be setting the examples for our future generations? I think so.

It is concerning to me that we are confusing our children by teaching them one thing and then demonstrating another. When politicians are corrupt, when teachers cheat, when we fail to take responsibility for our actions or hold others responsible for theirs, are we not sending the wrong messages to our children?

I am a strong believer in character education and development at all levels. However, I also believe that character education is designed to reinforce strong values ... not to create them. If we are going to do justice to our future generations it is our adult behavior that must change. That old cliché “Do as I say, not as I do,” is having a crippling affect on American children. Good character and values must be practiced. Healthy self esteem, pride, confidence and courage are needed to survive in a very complicated world.

Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

Photo: In years past, character was taught at home and passed from one generation to the next.

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