Teaching Students Life Skills through Character Education

Teaching Students Life Skills through Character Education

Recorded history shows that for centuries, societies have acknowledged the need for general education to also develop character in children and young people. Horace Mann, one of the most well-known reformers of education practices in the mid-1800s, advocated that character development in American schools is as important as academic pursuits.

The concept of “it takes a village to raise a child” is never more important than in the context of developing character. Character education has always been a responsibility shared among parents, teachers, and members of the community. Character education teaches children how to live and work together as families, friends, and neighbors, and teaches them how important it is to be a contributing and responsible citizen of the nation and the world. Developing character at a young age helps students to care about and develop core values such as respect, civic awareness, fairness and justice, and responsibility for self and others.

Today’s United States Congress publicly acknowledged the importance of character education, when it authorized the Partnerships in Character Education Program in 1994. In 2001, Congress renewed that emphasis with the No Child Left Behind Act. One of the six stated goals of the Department of Education is to “promote strong character and citizenship among our nation’s youth.” Obviously our society recognizes the importance of character education and has focused planning and resources to help address that need in American schools.

In public schools, character education must be developed using a comprehensive approach that provides multiple opportunities for students to understand, develop, and discuss positive social behaviors. To successfully implement a successful character education program, schools should concentrate on several important goals:

Bring people together to gather ideas and develop a strategy. Include staff, parents, students, and interested members of the community in helping to identify and define the character elements that should be most strongly emphasized in any character development program. Having a strong partnership between parents and teachers is vital to the success of the program, so that students hear a consistent message from all people involved in their lives.

Give students examples to follow. Train teachers and other school staff on how to integrate character education into other areas of the school and learning experiences. Provide opportunities for adults to serve as role models of exemplary character traits and social behaviors.

Be committed. Take a leadership role in ensuring that the entire community is involved in designing and implementing a character development program. Everyone must work together and remain committed to making character education an integral part of all educational agendas.

by Janet Peterson.

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