Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Dubya's Character Education Initiative

Not a joke.

Here's something not covered by the mainstream press so far: Dubya wants $25 million to fund something he calls 'character education'.  I'm guessing he'd rather have kids get character ed rather than arts ed.

Pointing to an upbeat federal report showing that conditions are generally improving for America's youth, President Bush is calling on Congress to fund his proposed Character Education Initiative. He wants to extend and intensify values programs for young people.

The president used his weekly radio address to ask Congress to authorize his $25 million request for the initiative, which is intended to teach values.

 ... snip...

The president's proposal calls for parents, schools, and government to work together to counter the influences of today's pop culture. The ideal would be for parents to connect with schools — and vice versa.

"It's not that (schools) don't want to be involved; it's just that they don't know where the line is," Richards said.

Certainly schools should be a place where good behavior — which is defined by honesty, respect, integrity — is encouraged and enforced."

As the president put it, schools can help turn kids away from a "if it feels good, do it" mindset.
Interesting take, given the Cheney incident and all the purported times Dubya flipped off his constituents.  

Certainly, this could beDubya's way of salvaging his sullied reputation as the education president as he caters to his base, the conservative Christian crowd.

Since this article provides  a few resources to check out, I did look.   I'll have to be fair; I went looking for trouble, and I couldn't find much that overtly shouted out that the agenda is teaching Judeo-Christian values.   Here is the link provided in the article.  And googling Dr. Lickona, I found this bio.   I did find he is an advocate for teaching abstinence as the proper moral substitute for sex-ed.

I was troubled by  the lack of transparency on the values they want to teach, of the definitions of the values to be troubling, and who would decide which values to be taught.  The whole thing could be dangerously close to a parochial school type of education yet we wouldn't know it. 

My take: when Dubya gets a dose of character education, then he would be in the position to recommend this to the kids.

Update: Education Week takes a look at character education (warning: registration req'd).

Implementation of a character education program can be contentious. One of the first questions people ask when learning that their school plans to implement a character education program is "Whose values are you going to teach?" (Brooks and Goble, 1997). Most character education programs in use today are based on the traits developed from the civic virtues found in the U.S. Constitution and the United Nations charter—as well as common civil and moral values such as honesty, courage, and respect for others. Advocating that honesty is better than dishonesty, or that free speech is better than censorship, rarely invites controversy.
What has developed from this basis varies by program. For example, the Character Counts program is based on the "six pillars of character": trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. Character Works, used throughout Georgia, emphasizes 38 character traits, one for each week of a typical school year, including courtesy, integrity, creativity, fairness, and accomplishment.
The Character Education Partnership has drawn up 11 principles of effective character education that schools can use to guide their efforts. The principles include the advice that the term "character" must be well-defined, that the program must be integrated into the curriculum, and that parents and community members must be involved (Lickona, T., Schaps, E., and Lewis, C., no date). The final principle is the need to assess the progress of the school involved in the program. But while there has been much anecdotal evidence about the effects of character education, not much in the way of scientifically based research exists.

This piece provides a nice background of the theoretical basis in psychology.  I'm not sure what to think of this whole thing.   However, this bill would provide more opportunities for businesses.   Here's Characterworks.