The 2015 Character Education Ethics Camp brought together teachers and staff from Bay Area high schools for a four-day workshop. The participants in the workshop each manage after-school programs at their respective high schools, ranging from mathematics clubs to bead making classes. Such programs are aimed at keeping students out of trouble and involved in productive, character-building activities.
Among the many important topics covered throughout the week were the value systems of teens versus adults, and the thoughts, skills and values that go into the formation of a young person’s character.
So what exactly is character education? Senior Fellow in Character Education Tom Kostic aptly describes it as the deliberate effort to cultivate virtue. It is everything done in a school that influences the kind of person a student becomes.
In considering the formation of a young person’s character, Kostic focuses on three main criteria: values, skills, and thoughts.
A person’s values are largely determined by the different role models he or she has in his or her life. What’s interesting is that traditional role models have changed from generation to generation; whereas many of today’s adults viewed their parents as role models growing up, many kids today find role models in the media, entertainment, and sports.
Character formation also has much to do with one’s thought processes. The ability to effectively problem solve, reflect on one’s experiences, reference a reliable ethical framework, and think straight are all critical to the development of character.
Finally, the ability to cooperate with peers, control one’s anger and restrain sudden impulses are just a few examples of skills that will facilitate the growth of a young person’s character.
True to good workshop form, the sessions were filled with animated conversations, as participants examined how they could each help cultivate the right values, skills, and thoughts in the minds and hearts of their students. Unfortunately, not all educators share the enthusiasm for character education that manifests itself at the Ethics Camp.
The state of California has a character education code for its schools, but the argument can be made that much more should be done to promote the character of our state’s youth. It has been mandated that every California educator receive a character education manual, and in 2007, October was officially declared “Character Education” month. “But what about the remaining 11 months?” Kostic asked. Shouldn’t character education be emphasized across all subjects, each and every day?
Character education boils down to creating a culture that calls for us all to be the best people we can be. At Ethics Camp, we see the beginning of that action, engagement and effort.
The Ethics Camp for afterschool educators was supported by a grant from Goodwill Industries.