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Just Say No To Character Education

"If you believe everything you read, better not read."
—Japanese proverb


In a spirited article in the November 1998 issue of Child Care Information Exchange, "Character Education: An Ineffective Luxury?," David Elkind made a spirited argument against including "character education" as a part of the curriculum. He concluded:

"The current time and effort spent in character education is largely wasted and uses up precious time that could be much better spent in other instructional activities. The hope that character education curricula in our schools will help reduce the immoral behavior of youth flies in the face of what we know about the chasm between moral knowledge and moral behavior. 

"This is not to say, however, that effective moral education does not take place in our schools. It does. As I suggested above, character is best taught not by a curriculum but rather by example. Teachers -- who are competent, caring and sensitive to children's needs -- are the best purveyors of moral values. In the end, taking some of the pressures off teachers, and supporting and encouraging them in their efforts, will do more for character education than any curriculum ever could, or ever will."

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