About Character Education

Interview with Professor Thomas Lickona,PhD

This interview originally appeared in the April, 2000 issue of Early Childhood Today. USA (ECT)

To read the entire Interview, please visit :

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/ect-interview-thomas-lickona-phd-talks-about-character-education

ECT : Why is Character Education so important ?

THOMAS LICKONA: Civilizations decline when their moral core deteriorates. One of our most basic responsibilities as adults is to sustain our civilization by passing on the values that are the foundation of our society.

ECT : What does Character Education really mean ?

LICKONA: I believe character education is the deliberate effort to cultivate virtue – that is, objectively good human qualities that are good for the individual person and good for the whole society. That doesn’t happen accidentally or automatically It happens as a result of great and diligent effort.

ECT: How do children develop Good Character ?

LICKONA: Children are most likely to become persons of character when they grow up in communities of character, where there is an effort on the part of families, schools, churches, temples, mosques, the media, the government, sports leagues, the chamber of commerce – everyone who has the opportunity to influence the values of young people – to both model and teach these character qualities.   That’s a huge challenge. And we’ve seen, for at least three decades, a decline in the quality of everyday moral life – in things as simple as civility, people’s manners in public places, and courtesy on the road. It requires a society-wide effort to restore the moral fabric.

ECT: Which values are really important ?

LICKONA: I would include qualities such as honesty, compassion, courage, kindness, self-control, cooperation, diligence or hard work, all the kinds of qualities that we need to both lead a fulfilling life and to be able to live together harmoniously and productively.

ECT: How are these virtues addressed in school? 

LICKONA: Character education develops these virtues through every phase of school life. In our work, we promote what we call a comprehensive approach to character education. We encourage schools to think about the moral life of the classroom in the school or center as a whole.

Our classroom components include the teacher as model, developing a moral classroom community, positive peer relationships, using discipline as a tool for character development, and building a democratic classroom so the children are involved in helping to make decisions to solve real classroom problems.

ECT: Why is it important that guidance comes from both the home and the school ?

LICKONA: Historically, character formation of the young has been shared by three institutions: home, religion, and school. These work together to pass on a legacy of values to shape the character of the next generation. The family lays the foundation, which gets built upon by the other institutions.

Adults have to come together to maximize the chance that we’ll have a generation of young people who are mature enough and good enough to build a collective future in the next century. It’s important that there be a partnership. The Character Education Partnership, the leading national organization promoting character education, is called that precisely to convey a very clear message that it is not the job of schools, families, or religious institutions alone.

To read the entire Interview, please visit :

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/ect-interview-thomas-lickona-phd-talks-about-character-education