Philadelphia’s Character Lab is helping the city’s educators get the conversation on character started with students.
The nonprofit Character Lab was launched by Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, and two colleagues in 2013 to help build character in students that leads to fulfilling lives, Keystone Edge reports.
“Overwhelming scientific evidence now shows that character strengths are as important as IQ and socioeconomic status to achievement and well-being,” Character Lab communications manager Cameron French said.
“In other words, if we want students to be good people and to those around them—all of these things require what we call character.”
According to the Edge:
Character Lab offers free “Playbooks,” ready-to-use resources comprised of videos, interviews, examples and facilitation guides that target a specific character strength and are aimed at middle and high school students.
Another initiative, the Character Lab Research Network, brings top scientists together with schools that want to advance character development science. And every summer, Character Lab cohosts the Educator Summit, bringing hundreds of educators together to learn from each other and from world-class scientists about the latest in the field.
French explained that Character Lab works to promote strong character traits with a keen focus on academics.
“Our research has demonstrated that there are at least three categories of character that matter for school success,” she said. “Interpersonal strengths, like gratitude, enable harmonious relationships with other people; intrapersonal strengths, like grit and self-control, enable achievement; and intellectual strengths, like curiosity, enable a fertile and free life of the mind.”
Those character virtues, she said, can be learned and developed throughout life.
“There’s an element of nature and an element of nurture to all character strengths,” French said. “We know that character is malleable, so Character Lab is dedicated to finding ways to develop character. We focus on adolescents in middle and high school. While very young ages may be important for establishing the foundations of character, science shows that this is not the only time you can instill it. Character may never stop changing.”
And while the Lab’s playbook offers helpful tips for parents and educators who want to instill positive virtues like self-control, other critical elements are required to form good character in youth.
University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter completes the ecosystem of character in The Death of Character: “When moral discourse (discussion of character and virtue) is taken out of the particularity of the moral community—the social networks and rituals that define its practice, and the communal practice that forms its memory—both the self and the morality it seeks to inculcate operate in a void.”
Tools and lessons created by Character Lab work best in strong particular communities that have clear definitions of right and wrong that go far deeper than academic success and achievement. In these kids of communities, self-control helps students to focus their energy on doing the right thing for the sake of others.