Looking at Character Education and Values From a Worldwide Perspective
The goals of character education include establishing life patterns and personal codes of behavior that include qualities such as integrity, belief in self and others, responsibility, and honor. Character itself has a strong relationship to how individuals view the world and their values. What individuals feel to be important or even worthwhile has impact upon character too, as does how they view the importance of themselves and others.
Particularly during childhood, an individual's values and worldview are developing and changing. The family and school, as well as other formal and informal social structures, help shape and form the individual's world-view and his or her interwoven values, attitudes, and appreciations. In a democratic society we want children to grow in their reasoned commitment to such democratic principles as majority rule, equal opportunity, individual rights, the rule of law, freedom of speech, and religious freedom.
Every society tries to shape the values of the young. Those who personally care about an individual child—and hopefully this includes parents, teachers, and a lot of others—want that child to grow up with the very best set of values possible. But not everyone agrees about just what that set is or about how it needs to be developed.
Parents and other family members present the child with their perspective, often a complex one. Various social groups attempt to exert pressure as well, having what is termed as a conserving influence. Conserving influences in any culture are those which transmit, maintain, and preserve that culture as it is. Religious, political, and social groups pressure the child to accept and believe in the values upon which the groups themselves are based. Schools also exert their own conserving influence. It should go almost without saying that the influence of any of these forces is not always unified. (Nor is it always positive.)
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