Digest of terms

Character Education

the process by which a person's individual character is shaped. Though this can include informal contact and learning as in a family setting, it more usually refers to the means of active promotion and building of character. These are widely pursued by educational programmes in schools, or their equivalent components within professional education and training, including those in the armed forces.

The features covered by character education can be very broad, including familiarity with such local conventions as table manners (eg use of eating implements or belching) and modes of greeting and parting (eg what is appropriate for physical contact). They may also or instead focus more specifically on such moral values as truth telling, sense of fairness and care for others.

Although not exclusive of the importance of individual reasoning in the process of making moral judgements, character education is much more associated with socialisation and induction into behavioural routines. Its discipline includes the repetition of certain words and actions within the classroom, on the sports field, in a military parade, or in public institutional life. Its inducements take the form of both rewards (eg praising, gifts, or elevation) and punishments (eg humiliating, beating, or penalising). The peer group is often invoked as an aid to promote or discourage a particular behaviour.

A potential weakness of some versions of character education is that they may encourage unthinking, crowd-following behaviour which viewed impartially may actually be morally dubious. Thus they may make obedience to authority a more important virtue than reasoned consideration and judgement. Whether intentionally or not, they may give rule-following (and therefore its avoidance) a greater priority than moral discernment. My family, peer group, company, country must ALWAYS come first.

With mixed results, other components of character education are given greater attention in such as Cognitive Moral Development and Values Clarification.

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