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America’s Schools Need Character Education Essay

5153 words - 21 pages

A question that often finds itself as the focus of curriculum debates and school planning discussions is that of moral and character development. Does character development have a place in our schools? Should public schools take the responsibility of educating students on morality? The answer is complex and has a multitude of sides and opinions. In a way, however, schools already educate students on what to believe and how to behave. By excluding the history of the "other" Americans, such as people of color, women, and homosexuals, and focusing instead of the failures and successes of those of European descent, our schools already instill a distinct vision of who and what we are supposed to be. The white Protestant male’s vision of history and view of the world tends to be placed into the text -books and overall teachings of public schools in the United States.

A very real example of this bias can be seen in the teaching of Thanksgiving. A holiday celebrated universally through all religions gives educators in public schools the opportunity to discuss and rejoice in the day with classroom activities and parties. Neglected from the Thanksgiving lesson, however, is the plight of the Native American who lost land and life when the Puritan settlers landed. Although moral education differs from multicultural education, they have points that intertwine. To me, the goals of character and moral education are to open up the minds of children and encourage an acceptance of others different from themselves. One of the most important pieces to moral education is fostering respect. Through development of respect and understanding of difference and humanity in general, perhaps much of the hate and intolerance that occurs in our society presently will be eliminated through the social consciousness of a younger generation taught to love rather than hate.

One can see the extreme need for character education when looking at the present condition of society. Prejudice and violence occurs so often against those who deviate from the appointed norm. Moral education is needed to combat these attitudes of hate. By looking at the programs implemented in schools, one can see ways in which children can learn and respect differences. An overall understanding of diversity is essential in education and homosexuality is a specific important piece on which to focus. Learning to respect and accept differences is very important in reducing violence. Violence has been linked to shame and rejection and through a program nurturing acceptance rather than rejection, moral education may help in reducing violent acts. A variety of programs encourage tolerance, while others contest the principles behind character education. What is needed, however, is the pervasive curriculum that incorporates character/moral education throughout all of its subjects and grade-levels. It is only through this kind of dialogue and open discussion on prejudice that we may begin to break it down.

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