Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Character Education

Every once in a while, the politicians and the media the education reformers make "character education" the issue du jour. Generally, this follows some egregious display of ill behavior by children that shocks, outrages, or disappoints a community and the nation at large. Thus, we have calls for schools to take up - or, strangely, "return to" - character education.

And, I ask myself, what do they think literature class is all about.

Most state standards and district curricula require students to study literature as it is "a record of the human condition." Stories are the way we promote values, teach lessons, model behavior, and perpetuate culture. In fact, a colleague of mine fondly reminds us that as English teachers we are purveyors of culture. And, clearly many of us cling to the classic stories we love because of the great and important discussions that rise out of the search for meaning and identity in the struggles of Scout and Huck and Pip and Holden and Nick Carraway and Gatsby and the myriad of others.

We have a great responsibility in the English classroom that goes far beyond nouns and pronouns, thesis statements and topic sentences, imagery and allusion. We are tasked, daily, with the character education of the future generations.

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