Character Education: Teaching Values, Morality, and Ethics in Schools need of the hour

Character Education: Teaching Values, Morality, and Ethics in Schools need of the hour

The purpose of schools is to educate children and to prepare them for the world. Students must be taught not only academics, but character education as well. In an address, President Clinton stated: "I challenge all schools to teach character education, to teach good values and good citizenship." There is an obvious emptiness in the values of today's children. Violence, adolescent suicide, is just a few of the many examples. In the past few years there has been a steady decline in moral authority. "Schooling should not only transmit national and cultural heritages, including our intellectual heritage, it should also be a essentially moral enterprise in which students learn how to develop tenable moral standards in the contents of their own visions of the world ". 

In a  survey it was found that, the two most regular responses identified as "major factors contributing to violence in schools was "lack of parental supervision at home" and "lack of morals and ethics" . Doesn't that tell us something? It tells us that we, as parents and teachers, are not doing our jobs. More and more often we see news reports about children shooting people, raping women, and committing other violent crimes. Students need individual attention and recognition for their positive contributions so they do not feel the need to act out with negative behavior. Teachers have an obligation to instill both personal and civic virtues such as integrity, responsibility, diligence, service, and respect for others. These qualities are practically non-existent in many of today's youth. What is so disturbing is that we are aware of the problem, and we are simply not doing anything about it. Worse, there are some that believe that values and morals should not be taught in schools. Those who oppose teaching values in schools feel that it is a parent's job to instill values in their children. But many parents are with their children for only a few hours at most a day. Children spend the majority of their waking hours in school, so it seems to me the obvious place to start teaching those better attitudes. Ideally, parents would be the ones with this important job but in today's society the majority of parents have too little time and too little influence to make a difference. Another problem with teaching morals in schools is deciding who chooses what morals will be taught. Different people have different values and priorities. It isn't right to teach children "how" to think about certain issues. But character education is not about acquiring the right views about religion, politics and race (etc.). It is about developing virtues- good habits and dispositions, which lead students to a responsible and mature adulthood. Schools must take basic steps to open ethical and moral windows for students, so they have the ability to pick, choose, and develop their own ethics and moral systems. Exactly how can we teach our children to be more virtuous, moral human beings? We need to reexamine how to best teach our children to be adequate ethical decision-makers. Educators need to help students learn how to reason and what principles should guide them in deciding what to do in situations where their well being is at stake. Students need to develop a sense of genuine caring for themselves and others. They need to learn alternatives to violence and human exploitation.

It is important that every school implements some kind of character education program in upcoming years. Much of the needless violence we see today is a result of the education system's failure to address the needs of a changing society. It is impossible to strip values, character and morals from the educational environment. "The school must become a community of virtue in which responsibility; hard work, honesty, and kindness are modeled, taught, expected, celebrated, and continually practiced. 


1.Herbert,Wray. US News and World Report ; June 3,1996, pgs. 52-56, 58-59. Copyright 1996 by US News and World Report. 

2. Restructuring Schools: Character Education/Ethics: Character Education Manifesto. 

3. '98 Safe Schools- Report. 4. Schultz, Fred. Annual Editions -Education 97/98, 24th edition. Dushkin/McGraw Hill. Copyright 1997, Guilford CT. 

The Author is Assistant Professor, Pioneer Institute of Professional Studies

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