By Stephen Ellenwood

Stephen EllenwoodGood literature can help us understand both a range of nuances regarding key virtues such as kindness, persistence, or honesty and the complexities of how to answer questions that require, for example, both kindness and honesty. This approach is based in part on Jessamyn West’s wise counsel, “Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.”

Good stories with believable characters and situations help students understand the fine points of both language and character. These stories also focus on how students create and become a member of a caring community. 

Participants in my Forum presentation will read and discuss very short stories from American and Chinese literature to analyze difficult value choices facing diverse characters in friendship, family, and romantic situations. Participants will also explore ways of handling complex character values in culturally diverse settings not limited to the American-Chinese stories in this session. These stories are integrated into all levels of 7-12 English, health, and cross-cultural classes.

The curriculum and classroom strategies are designed to show students how their careful and thorough work in their academic courses can help enrich their daily lives. In large measure this is an anti-impulse curriculum that contributes to the development of a caring community in schools.


To strengthen a broader understanding of key character values and their complex relationships with one another
To demonstrate how carefully understanding refined nuances in good literature enables us to live a richer life and interact with others more productively
To strengthen a richer vocabulary, finer clarity in decision making, and better anticipation of consequences of decisions
To understand the obvious as well as the subtle influences of diverse educational and cultural values across two countries, the United States and China

Professor Stephen Ellenwood currently serves as Director of the Boston University Center for
Character and Social Responsibility (CCSR). He was a founding board member when the CCSR was established in 1989. Prof. Ellenwood also served as Chair of the Curriculum & Teaching Department at Boston University for three decades. During that time he directed two federally funded curriculum projects that relied on literature as a source for understanding good haracter and healthy relationships.