Character building is, say some, only for children from Kindergarten to age ten. After that, they claim, character building and formal character education are unnecessary.
Really? If character building is not necessary after your tenth birthday, why do business people engage in back stabbing and dishonest business practices? Why do adults reject self-control and bow to unhealthy appetites? How do we explain dysfunctional families? Why do middle school and secondary school students misbehave? Why is bullying rampant? Why do teachers in upper grades receive little respect? Why is teen responsibility an issue? It seems that character building and formal character education are vital at every age, across the spectrum of society.
I agree that temperaments vary, and some children are tender – more readily influenced by early character building efforts. Nevertheless, the ease with which we can build character in some should not determine the inclusion or exclusion of character education for all.
Many adults are seeking character building help for personal goals. Others believe character in business is vital, and they want to build it in their workplace.
Many parents, individual teachers, and entire school districts order every book in our Character Companions® Series. They like to use the enchanting animal stories for teaching character education to young children. Believing that three-to-eight-year-olds need character education, they have made these books and lesson plans on various character traits very popular. They do not believe, however, that character education is very important for older children.
Some parents and teachers, and a few school districts, go a step further and order every book in our Character Mystery Series. They like to use these exciting books and accompanying lesson plans for character education. They are more likely to use them for teaching character traits to upper elementary school students, however, and less likely to use them with eleven-year-olds in middle school. Incredibly, they seem to believe middle school students have learned enough about the sixty-six character traits.
A few parents and teachers, and a limited number of school districts order the two teen novels in our Character-in-Action® Series. They realize that secondary school students have problems, and they hope the books will be of help, but they aren’t sure. They cling to the belief that character education is for young children.
How I wish they all could experience what I have experienced during a long career as an educator and administrator. Character education’s benefits are not limited to young children. Character education succeeds at every age, and research shows that.
- Take, for example, the case of Brittany. At age 15, Brittany respected nobody. The last time she had done anything her parents asked was at age three. The last time she had obeyed a school rule was never. Even the outgoing principal, a muscular military man, inspired no respect in Brittany. In fact, the school board of this private school was inclined to ban Brittany, but the new female principal requested a trial run for her.
Brittany threw down the gauntlet on Day One. Arriving at school late afternoon, she stomped into her classroom, paraded across the room, and interrupted the principal’s lecture to talk loudly to another student. Did Brittany need character education? Assuredly! Even though character education had been part of her school life for years, she had not outgrown her need. She still needed it.
The new principal introduced character education in a unique way. Through consistent daily teaching – without lectures – she taught Brittany about character traits such as respect and responsibility. Then she helped Brittany apply those character traits to daily life. Within two months, a dramatic change began to take place in Brittany’s behavior.
Her dark wardrobe gave way to light colors. She dropped her façade and began to smile with sincerity. She volunteered to help teachers, and gave them full respect. She arrived promptly for every class, took full responsibility for assignments, and participated willingly, obeying all school regulations and encouraging other students to do the same. By year’s end, Brittany had earned a number of awards for her behavior.
Character education is for teen girls – and they enjoy character education when you base it on books like the best-selling teen romance novel, Date with Responsibility.
- Character education is for teen boys, too, even if they have learned to fail miserably. That was the case with Jacob and John, twin 16-year-olds. The twins had failed school every year from age nine to sixteen. Schools promoted them socially each year, but they detested school. When the family moved to a state where the legal dropout age was sixteen, the boys refused to enroll.
The parents asked the principal to talk to their sons, but Jacob and John were in no mood to listen. They maintained that school was pointless since they wanted to be car mechanics like their dad. They simply would not go back to school.
The principal dug deeper, and finally persuaded them to try one semester. If they still hated school after that, they could quit. The twins agreed reluctantly.
Character education permeated that one semester. Jacob and John learned about character traits such as responsibility, diligence, patience, determination, and trustworthiness. They learned to apply those character traits, and when they exercised them appropriately, received positive reinforcement at school and at home.
A gradual metamorphosis occurred. The boys’ impatience to leave school changed to patience. The irresponsibility that had led to failed tests gave way to a small measure of responsibility – and passing grades. Soon the grades crept toward average, and then slipped above average. Jacob and John both got their first perfect scores on the same test! Character education was having its effect.
They had permission to drop out at the end of that semester, but character education had effected such enormous academic success that they opted to stay. The next June, for the first time in seven years, they earned promotion to the next grade level.
Character education works for teenage boys – and they enjoy character education when you base it on books like the intriguing teen novel, Passport to Courage.
Character building and character education are necessary at every age, and these incredible anecdotes prove that even teenagers – arguably the most difficult age – benefit immensely from strong character education!