Within the past 15 years, many schools, public, private and charter have spent time and resources into implementing and publicizing their “Character Education” programs. What exactly is “character education?” may be the question in many parents’ minds. In short, school-based character education programs are programs implemented in elementary, middle, or high schools that involve deliberate, proactive attempts to foster positive character development. Character education programs focus on instilling, teaching, or promoting a range of core values; also known more commonly as ethical values, moral values and virtues. Character education programs are primarily designed to promote values that may be generalized across contexts.
As I read and re-read that definition, I am always surprised by how much promoting goes into a school wide “Character Education” program. Having worked for a period of years at an elementary charter school, I know well how much emphasis we put on our character education program and how much the parents valued and appreciated the program. It was indeed, a selling point of the school. With my heart and my mind rooted in Catholic education, I cannot help but wonder: Isn’t Character Education what Catholic School has been about since its inception?
From research, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that the most successful character education programs are the comprehensive ones. Comprehensive character education programs are aimed at affecting the school as a community by integrating character education into the full spectrum of school activities and school life through such means as involvement across curricular topics, discipline practices, after-school activities, and other such school functions; participation by teachers, principals, school staff, parents, and especially students in program design and implementation; and multiple approaches to teaching character. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? And while the definition uses a lot of buzz words and educational terms, isn’t what it’s really saying is to teach kindness, compassion, and concern for others? Hmmm….very interesting…
Saint Dominic Academy, and all other Catholic educational institutions on both the primary and secondary level are doing this on a daily basis and have been doing it for as long as they have been established as schools. Not only in our religious studies classes, but within the entire climate of the school, an emphasis is placed on good character, on compassion for others, on assisting the less fortune, and on the foundation that kindness does indeed count and that honesty is always the best policy. We, and indeed all Catholic schools are the “inventors” one might say of character education, because we build our educational programs around that goal, rather than incorporate that goal into our already established educational program.
I am of firm belief that parents are children’s primary moral educators. What Catholic schools have always worked to do is to ensure that the young people who pass through their doors emerge as the best they can be by creating a school environment where religious values are taught, civic virtues are expected, and good character is modeled, celebrated, and continually practiced. We have always been partners with parents on the development of moral character and that will continue to be the goal of Saint Dominic Academy and of all Catholic schools far into the future.
And so, when parents are looking for a school that teaches good character; they need look no further than Saint Dominic Academy for a strong foundation in morals, virtues and good character. We do not have a “character education program”. Rather we, at Saint Dominic Academy, develop the moral character of our young ladies at all times, in every classroom and in every aspect of our school community. Character does indeed count at Saint Dominic Academy!