From a philosophical point of view, what role would an educational institution like to play in shaping a society other than raising, supporting, helping and educating young pupils into becoming well rounded responsible individuals and citizens who have learnt,
- to uncover and cultivate their diverse and unique potentials, (Objective A, concerned with subjective motivations)
- to be successful and thriving in their personal creative and vocational fields, (Objective B, concerned with subjective motivations)
- to live their lives with integrity, honesty, fairness, respect and compassion both, towards others, as well as their own selves. (Objective C, concerned with objective motivations)
In this manner, education is much about politics, as an all rounded education enables students to contribute towards, and to be a positive proponent of social, political, economic and cultural fabric of society. Enriching it, in both, its scientific and industrial, as well as in its cultural and moral citizenship.
However, what is evident in most societies today in terms of opportunism – individualism- materialism – groupism – racism – extremism – terrorism, informs us that educational institutions have not been able to holistically support their pupils in materialising their foundational ethos and aspirations.
While educational institutions globally have come a long way in providing support and expertise towards facilitating Objective A (to uncover and cultivate their diverse and unique potentials), and B (to be successful and thriving in their personal creative and vocational fields), with a focus to prepare students to succeed in the market place, there has been a lack of interest, awareness, research and effort put towards the materialisation of Objective C (to live their lives with integrity, honesty, fairness, respect and compassion both, towards others, as well as their own selves), in order to make education a holistic experience, and towards the holistic formation of character as its inherent goal.
CHARACTER EDUCATION AND ITS METHODOLOGY
Character education is inseparable from a specific methodology since it is not a subject taught theoretically but a method through which character is formed.
Therefore, character education is a specific methodology of introducing such moral traits as, respect, fairness, honesty, courage, patience and compassion to young pupils by creating lived experiences through specially designed lessons and suitably fitting environments, in which young pupil are encouraged to make morally good choices. This methodology helps to develop a moral sense, moral autonomy, and a natural habit of deliberations which are much about choices derived from considerations.
This helps the pupil to gradually overcome their negative emotions such as, anger (egoistic sensitivities), discrimination, greed, tacit spite and envy along with subjective and subconscious biases which often inform the impulsive decision making process. Instead, character education enables them to tame, mould and shape their negative emotions to make morally good choices concerning themselves as well as others.
Good role modeling, encouragement and consistent habitual efforts, most importantly in the pupils formative years, enables them to draw on to their moral autonomy in all their social and personal experiences, whether in their peer relationships or relationships at home, as well as in their judgment formations and general decision making process. In other words, a default use of wisdom is formed as a filter in all their experiences, in both, self and other-regarding.
In subsequent years, the consistent use of wisdom becomes their nature, or ‘character’, and a spontaneous discerning ability of using good-sense and clear-sightedness is formed.
WHAT CAN CHARACTER EDUCATION ACCOMPLISH AT SOCIETAL LEVEL ?
The human proclivities to use oneself and others as a mean to one’s self interested ends in variable degrees from benign to malign effects is a default condition of human raw nature. The motivation for this tendency emanates from the inherent drive of self-interest, its pursuits, and gratifications.
Since, as highlighted above, Objective A (to uncover and cultivate their diverse and unique potentials), and B (to be successful and thriving in their personal creative and vocational fields), are generally concerned with subjective motivations and are also material oriented, therefore, determinations and economic autonomy behind the pursuit of personal goals is highly influenced by the tendency of self interest – manifesting itself in the forms of opportunism, individualism and materialism. This influence is not limited to material goals. It permeates other pursuits such as status, social position, fame, power, control etc.
The psychology behind groupism also originates from the same tendency of self-interest in different forms – feeling superior in order to control and manipulate others – having a sense of security and power by conforming to the norms of closest social groups of shared racial, ethnic, religious and national backgrounds with unquestioning loyalty and obligations to those groups (in-group biases). In the field of sociology, it is argued that individual behaviour and psyche is conditioned and shaped by these social constructs. We believe, it nevertheless is appealed by the inherent human condition of self interest which leads him/her to organise their social affairs in these peculiar patterns of groupism which are then exploited by those with stronger tendencies who systemise it, and hence manifest itself in the forms of racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-semitism, homophobia etc.
We anticipate and hope that the holistic method of teaching character education can help young pupils to internalise the virtue of fairness and respect in a meaningful and wholesome manner accompanied with a habit of impartial considerations and deliberations. Hence, they are able to grow with a stronger ability of overcoming the inherent tendency of self-interest. In the process, it is hoped a deeper appreciation of other’s and one’s own regard and respect can be formed, which will subsequently become a filter or criterion behind their decision making process.
This does not mean individuals would loose personal drive to thrive and actualise their individual talents in their respective fields but rather their motivations can be altered towards seeking and achieving more meaningful outcomes for themselves as well as for others.
Humanity is an art and character is the key to it, the skill to master it with.
Just like all art, expertise, and professions require training and skills, so does humanity- through training and building character. Whilst, specific arts and professions are self-regarding and subject to an individual choice, humanity is both self-regarding and other-regarding, hence a necessary responsibility of every individual. Therefore, Character Education is the right of every child.