I recently exchanged emails with a friend about the merits of the growing number of character development programs out in the educational marketplace. I noted that I am a great admirer of the work of Thomas Lickona who helped get the ball rolling twenty years ago with his great book Educating For Character and keeps it rolling today with his Center for the 4th and 5th R (Note: Respect & Responsibility).
At the same time, I’ve also developed a 2-part sniff test to check:
a) Is a given program really just a front for the forces of Testing Mania currently gripping our country?;
b) Is it just a tool designed to improve short-term student behavior? (Some of the ”Stop Bullying” programs seem to fall into this group.)
I guess it’s fair to say that I mistrust programs that are fundamentally corrective in nature. I’m also dubious about character programs with short-term goals. I mean, you can’t approach character like a diet.
I’ve also grown weary of the Measurement Police: those who want to prove that a program instituted in September will result in certain behavioral outcomes in April. I mean, imagine, say, a Methodist moving to a new town with 2 Methodist churches and then asking one of the 2 ministers, “Hey, the minister down the street at First Methodist tells me that his church saves 16.5 souls a month. So, tell me, can you do better than that?
Are we really at the point where we need to measure the merits of doing the right thing?
Onward, Malcolm Gauld