Throughout history, education has had two primary goals: to educate people intellectually and to teach them to be morally good. Character education is not a new concept; it’s been around in one form or another for hundreds of years. It is based around the belief that all the people in your child’s life, from family to teachers to members of the larger community, have a shared responsibility to help them develop positive character traits and to be good people. It’s through the teaching of sound moral habits, thoughts, and behaviors that your child can positively develop as a human being and live and work in harmony with others in their life. While you demand a certain level of academic standards from your child’s school, character formation may be even more critical to their future success and wellbeing.
What is Character Formation?
When you think of good character, you likely consider elements of love, hope, faith, respect, justice, courage, honesty, empathy, responsibility, and community. Although organizations approach the question of character from different viewpoints, these common themes occur throughout a character-first curriculum. Schools that are committed to character formation set it as a guiding principle around which all else revolves. As you choose the next school for your child, consider where the institution stands on character formation and how they ensure it is central to all their teachings. Is the school and its curriculum intentionally designed to cultivate moral and intellectual virtue? Do they provide:
At home and in school, your child models the behavior they see. You know the people at home and your extended family. You know the clubs your child joins and the friends they have. But how well do you know the men and women who spend time with your student in the classroom? Before you enroll your child in a new school, find out about the teachers, staff, and administration. Look for assurances that they will be people of sound principles and good moral character. Through their actions and their words, will they inspire and uplift your child? When they point to lessons in texts and historical figures, will they urge their students to analyze characters using the conceptual framework of virtues and vices? How will your student be challenged to evaluate good and bad moral decisions in the texts they study?
A school cannot help your child’s character formation if the people there don’t take the time to get to know who they are. Whether during regular lessons, extra help sessions, or in an advisory capacity, the faculty at your child’s school has many opportunities to understand them and provide sound counsel. They can observe and intercede if they feel poor choices are being made. Character formation is a journey where intentional decisions lead to maturity.
Does your child have a passion to help others? Formative community practices encouraged at their school can help them seize upon activities that help others, while allowing them to grow and self-reflect. Participation in community service can help your child achieve pro-social character development. Assess if a school cultivates a love of serving others, a spirit of gratitude, and a desire for wisdom, and how that institution teaches those tenets at each grade level.
How Character Formation Impacts Your Child
Character education can lead to greater school achievement and expressions of love, integrity, compassion, and self-discipline. Additionally, children given character education may have fewer disciplinary problems and more positive behaviors. The positive results from character education extend past the classroom as well, with children regularly exhibiting more pro-social and generally acceptable behaviors in the community compared to children without character education. These findings point to a clear relationship between strong character and strong adjustment. Well-adjusted human beings are a benefit to society, providing service, compassion, and assistance to others.
Many good schools can teach your child how to do well on exams or get into a prestigious university, but the schools that care about students’ intellectual, spiritual, and moral growth as human beings through character education are in a league of their own.
Gravitas is an online extension of the prestigious Stony Brook School. For more than 100 years, The Stony Brook School has provided character education to all students who attend. Gravitas also applies the same principles of character over career in everything we teach. We pride ourselves on helping to prepare our students for success at the most prestigious universities in the world, and for lives dedicated to serving their communities. Please contact us to learn more now.