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Difference between Values education and Character education

There is an important difference between values education and character education that is not widely understood.

Values education is primarily concerned with the quality of students’ thinking.

Character education is primarily concerned with the quality of students’ behaviour.

In the 1970’s and 80’s it became the overriding concern of values education that programmes should not favour any particular religious or philosophical point of view. Programmes and approaches have been developed which presented as being neutral and without religious or moralistic bias.

It was seen as important that any values teaching be non-sectarian and non-doctrinaire.

The outcome has been that young people, regardless of their social, racial and economic background, have absorbed the unmistakable message that right and wrong are relative, that they must not be judgmental, that what is right for one person may be wrong for another. Right and wrong are personal values, never objective, and always dependent upon time, place and circumstance.

This is not a neutral position but the doctrine of situation ethics; moral and cultural relativism.

Curriculum developers in an attempt to eliminate doctrinal bias simply traded perceived indoctrination with the traditional upstanding that there are core universal values for indoctrination in the ideology of ethical relativism

Neutrality in values education is an unachievable aim.

Schools must promote some moral values if they are to work at all.

Everything a school does teaches values. Whether it is the way the principal treats her staff, the way the class teacher relates to her students, the way the school allows students to treat each other or whether or not the school chooses to discuss moral issues.

The best teachers and the best schools have always worked to build character in their students. However, in recent decades, they have been thwarted by theoretical constructions like moral relativism which do no work in practice and deny the wisdom of the ages.


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