Character Education and Teaching

The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Storiesdown arrow icon

Bennett, William J. (1993). The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories. New York: Simon and Schuster.

This is a book that can immediately be used by K-12 teachers. For it Bennett has chosen classic literary pieces--poems and stories--arranged around ten virtues and sequenced from simple to more complex. For example, the section on Responsibility begins with simple poems for young children, then includes such classics as Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade", and concludes with famous orations by Perecles, a section by Plato, and public documents by such as Jefferson, Madison, Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. The other virtues documented include self-discipline, compassion, friendship, work, courage, perseverance, honesty, loyalty and faith. Teachers at all levels and in most content areas will find great supplemental reading here.

The Call of Stories: Teaching and the Moral Imaginationdown arrow icon

Coles, Robert (1986). The Moral Life of Children. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

With a mix of brilliant insight, deep sincerity and knowledge of psychoanalytic theory, the country's most famous child psychiatrist interviews children about their lives in a continually conflicted society. Children from inner cities, poor rural areas and well-to-do families serve as subjects as they discuss issues of race, social class, and other cultural conflicts in their own lives. How these children interpret parental and societal inhibitions, how they use religious lessons and how they interpret life as they experience it to draw from their experiences certain moral energy is the heart of this book. The various chapters focus on moral energy, moral purpose and vulnerability, what is character, idealism, and social class.

Peacebuilding for Adolescents: Strategies for Educators ansd Community Leadersdown arrow icon

Forcey, Linda R. & Ian M. Harris (Eds.) (1999). Peacebuilding for Adolescents: Strategies for Educators and Community Leaders. New York: Peter Lang.

This is an important book for theoreticians and practitioners alike. Sixteen interdisciplinary articles and essays are organized into three categories: I. Confronting Violence, II. Classroom Strategies for Peacebuilding, III. School Strategies for Peacebuilding, and IV. School and Community. The editors and essayists present practical strategies for intermediate and upper grade students and demonstrate how teachers, guidance counselors, school administrators, community leaders and students themselves can think about, teach, and implement peace education. Forcey and Harris offer a refreshingly multidimensional analysis of the many conceptualizations of the youth violence problem. Solutions to violence presented in this work incorporate a multidisciplinary and a multicultural understanding of adolescent development and broad societal problems. The recommended “ways of behaving” are more than solutions to violence and may be considered prescriptions for living with personal integrity and social concern. In this book, teachers will find essays to expand their own thinking about encouraging the development of peaceful problem-solvers as well as the curriculum tools to begin the job.

(Reviewed by Dr. Pamela Lane-Garon, Associate Director of the Bonner Center)

A Call to Heroism Renewing America's Vision of Greatnessdown arrow icon

Gibbon, Peter H. (2002). A Call to Heroism: Renewing America’s Vision of Greatness. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.

Twenty-first century America is a nation bereft of heroic role models. No longer is Washington the father of his country; instead, he is a slave owner who had a mistress. Movie stars and athletes are figure prominently in the media; we are lulled into believing that these celebrities represent our pool of modern heroes. For Peter Gibbon, neither of these depictions of heroes has substance, and each of these depictions represents a break in the tradition of man’s historical reach for greatness.

The Moral Stake in Education: Contested Premises and
Practicesdown arrow icon

Goodman, Joan F., and Howard Lesnick (2001). The Moral Stake in Education: Contested Premises and Practices. New York: Longman.

Goodman and Lesnick's book is a text designed for college students and teachers in training. It combines a solid introduction to ethical theory, an exploration of issues in professional ethics, and a review of important approaches to moral education. Noteworthy about this useful volume is its unusual format: each chapter is divided into three sections interrelated by theme-- narrative openings, analysis and elaboration, and related primary source readings. The narrative opening sections weave a developing review of a first year teacher's encounter with moral issues of teaching and professional life. Each following analytical section connects the teacher's experiences with aspects of the book's three focal areas: ethical theory, moral judgment in teaching practice and professional life, and theories of moral education. The concluding section of each chapter offers a number of brief excerpts from classical and contemporary writers on the chapter's theme. The final chapter presents a proposal for moral education in an elementary school which represents the combined efforts of the fictional characters whose experiences have been the basis of the text's discussion. This integrating review suitably balances and applies the text's materialand emphasizes, as the text as a whole does, the capacities for reflection and choice that must be cultivated in the moral educator. Overall, the level of discussion is challenging and sophisticated, the narrative sections engaging. The authors thankfully avoid easy resolutions and the premises and practices they explore remain, as the subtitle promises, "contested." At the same time, they model thoughtful reflection and judgment and encourage teachers-to-be to become informed and reflective practitioners responsible for developing their own approach to "the moral stake in education." Selective use of the text would allow it to effectively serve beginning undergraduates through graduate level students.

(Reviewed by Dr. James Anderson, California State University, Chico)

The American Plutarch: 18 Lives Selected from the Dictionary of American Biograpghydown arrow icon

James, Edward T., Ed., (1964). The American Plutarch: 18 Lives Selected from the Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.

This fine book, a collection of biographies of famous Americans, is our version of The Parallel Lives of Eminent Greeks and Romans by the ancient Greek Plutarch. The biographies, like those of Plutarch, are arranged in pairs--Jefferson and Hamilton, Lee and Grant, Jefferson Davis and Lincoln, etc.--and concentrate on very significant problems of historical responsibility and change. In each biography there is a focus on the individual's notions of public morality or 'civic virtue'. Each biography exposes the pitfalls these great people faced in their lives. For example, Washington had great difficulty training the Revolutionary troops who, in the name of democracy, didn't want to accept discipline, and Lincoln, who was constantly humiliated and threatened by the press, his army's defeats, and the dissension within his own cabinet. An excellent book for teachers of American history at the elementary and secondary levels.

Books that Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Child Moral Values Through Storiesdown arrow icon

Kilpatrick, William, and Wolfe, Gregory and Suzanne M. (1994). Books that Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Child Moral Values Through Stories. New York: Simon and Schuster.

This excellent resource for teachers is intended to introduce the reader to books that help children from age four through high school grow in virtue. Its focus is on the moral dimensions of reading. In their introductory chapters, the authors state that reading is important for four reasons: 1) stories create an emotional attachment to goodness, 2) stories provide a wealth of good examples on how to live, 3) stories familiarize students with the codes of conduct they need to know, and 4) stories help them make sense of life. Presented are chapters on the major categories of books: fables and fairy tales; myths, legends and folktales; sacred texts; historical fiction; contemporary fiction; biography; etc. Each chapter is divided into general age levels (4-8, 8-12, and 12 and up). Approximately 200 pages of excellent, annotated books follow. Highly recommended.

100 Ways to Enhance Values and Morality in Schools and Youth Settingsdown arrow icon

Kirschenbaum, Howard (1995). 100 ways to Enhance Values and Morality in Schools and Youth Settings. Needham Heights, MA: Simon and Schuster.

Kirschenbaum has produced a very practical book for teachers, counselors, and others who work with groups of children. His 'comprehensive' approach to values and moral education wisely presents excellent group techniques, mixing the best of clarification and traditional values strategies for use in classrooms and schools. He implores teachers to inculcate values, model values, train students in values, or help students find their own best values as the situation demands. In a clear and practical manner he presents 100 strategies, with full explanations, that synthesize the best of theory and research of the past thirty years. This is a good supplemental book which gives solid classroom examples, but it should not stand alone as the basis for a program of character education.

Moral Matters: Five Ways to Develop the Moral LIfe of Schooldown arrow icon

Stengel, Barbara S. and Tom, ALan (2006).

This timely book explores the ways that committed K-12 educators have attempted to make the moral visible in American schooling over the past 25 years. The authors look at their efforts, using an analytic framework that distinguishes five possible ways that the moral and academic can be related in schooling (Read more...)

Developing Character in Students: A Primer for Teachers, Parents and Communitiesdown arrow icon

Vincent, Philip Fitch (1994). Developing Character in Students: A Primer for Teachers, Parents and Communities. Chapel Hill, NC: New View Publications.

In this, his first book, Philip Vincent, an experienced teacher and district curriculum expert, provides a personal perspective on what schools can do to promote the character education of their students. After an introductory overview of the history and philosophy of character education, including a short discussion of Plato and Aristotle and problems besetting today's society, Vincent states that it is necessary "to develop in youth the skills needed for effective thinking and reasoning, as well as the habits of good behavior that yield moral character". He then procedes to develop a program, outlined in various chapters, explaining how schools can implement such a program. Chapter 3, "The Value of Rules and Procedures" is a good one, outlining the purpose of rules in classrooms, the difference between general and specific rules, how to implement a program of rules and the use of appropriate punishments. Chapter 4, "Cooperative Learning" is less useful, focusing more on the social benefits of this technique than on the cognitive benefits. Chapter 5, "Teaching for Thinking" is also less useful, but chapters 6 and 7, "Reading for Character" and "Caring Through Service to Others" describe several programs (e.g., Jr. Great Books program, Heartwood Ethics Curriculum, various service program ideas for elementary and middle schools) that schools can readily implement. This is, in the end, a practical book, but teachers using it will have to go much further.