In the era of Marvel superheroes it is very easy to think superpowers are a necessity to make a positive impact. Our students are faced with so many pressures in today’s society and are constantly being told by mainstream media how to dress and act, and what to believe. This constant cloud of negativity hinders their ability to tap into their own extraordinary talents. The solution to this dilemma is character education. Character education teaches students that they don’t need the speed of The Flash or the strength of The Hulk to be an influential and successful human being. All they have to do is to tap into their own superpower, which is embracing the person they are and the person they want to become.
Character education, as defined by the Character Education Partnership is, “an educational movement that supports the social, emotional and ethical development of students. It is the proactive effort by schools, districts, and states to instill in students important core, ethical and performance values such as caring, honesty, diligence, fairness, fortitude, responsibility, and respect for self and others.” To put it simply, character education teaches students how to create their best academic work and how to be the best version of themselves. An effective character education program follows these eleven principles:
- Promotes core ethical and performance values
- Teaches students to understand, care about and act upon these core ethical and performance values.
- Encompasses all aspects of school culture.
- Fosters a caring school community
- Provides opportunities for moral action
- Supports academic achievement
- Develops intrinsic motivation
- Includes whole-staff involvement
- Requires positive leadership of staff and students.
- Involves parents and community members
- Assesses results and strives to improve.
Schools that have implemented a character education program structured by these eleven principles have seen amazing results.
In a longitudinal study of four schools conducted by the Character Education Partnership, the average number of student behavioral incidents that required disciplinary action dropped 74% after one year of implementing this program and on average 80% after 6 years of implementation. Even further, their achievement scores improved from the 43rd percentile to the 71st percentile after the first year.
Another example is the three longitudinal studies that spanned over twenty years and were conducted in Oakland, CA. These studies found that students who attended elementary schools that implemented character education programs were found to engage in more pro-social behavior, were more skilled at resolving interpersonal conflicts, were more concerned about others, and were more committed to democratic values. When the researchers followed up with those students in middle school they found that, compared to their classmates, the students who were involved in the character education programs in elementary school were more engaged in class, had higher grades and achievement scores, and were involved in positive extracurricular activities.
Character education doesn’t just develop strong students, it develops strong individuals. It fosters empathy, compassion, and strong sense of self. In today’s world, success is not always tied to academics. Therefore, it is essential that students possess the necessary skills that transforms them into the best version of themselves while simultaneously permitting them to be their own superhero.