AESM Middle School in downtown St. Louis is implementing a new character education program in hopes it will make a positive impact on students’ lives well into the future.
“If you don’t have good character traits,” principal Ceandre Perry told KMOV, “students can struggle in the real world.”
“So we want to make sure we’re equipping them right now with those ideas in order for them to be successful in high school and go on into the real world,” he said.
The news site highlighted how the “new school program focuses on character instead of curriculum.”
“Instead of focusing on just math and science, it stresses nonacademic growth that will help students long after they leave school,” KMOV reports.
The three-year “Character Plus” program was funded through an unspecified grant.
KMOV provides very few details on what the program actually entails, but the news report illustrates a fundamental problem facing character education, as well as other important issues like moral formation, and social and emotional learning in schools: they’re viewed as education extras that are not necessarily elements of a “real” or traditional academic curriculum.
The fact is, whether or not educators and the media formally acknowledge character education or moral formation, students are learning both through daily life at home and at school. It’s often part of a “hidden curriculum” that will determine if students lead a flourishing life, or something else.
Plenty of students get straight As in school, but flunk life miserably.
An intentional focus on character and morality in the daily school rituals is a positive step in the right direction, but it’s only one of several important elements. Character education programs that are ultimately successful also push students and teachers to commit to a particular view of reality.
If a program is not rooted in strong particular commitments, what the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture terms “particularity,” then it will not withstand the assaults of daily life.
The Community School for Social Justice in the South Bronx and the Ron Brown High School in Washington, D.C., are two examples of public high schools with very strong particular commitments.