“Intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
At the Character Education Partnership (CEP), we certainly believe character can and should be taught. So I have been particularly thrilled by all the attention and wide praise that has been garnered by the important new book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character, by Paul Tough. He argues compellingly that teaching reading, writing, arithmetic, and right from wrong is absolutely essential to producing not just good students, but good people. Tough writes:
Character strengths that matter so much to young people’s success are not innate; they don’t appear in us magically, as a result of good luck or good genes. And they are not simply a choice. They are rooted in brain chemistry, and they are molded, in measurable and predictable ways, by the environment in which children grow up. That means the rest of us—society as a whole—can do an enormous amount to influence their development in children.
My hope is that How Children Succeed will push the issue of character development into the mainstream. For many years, CEP has recognized hundreds of teachers, administrators and school districts as part of our National Schools of Character Awards program, but too many others, both public and private, have not yet committed to character education programs. Our aim is to change that.
For our part, CEP has studied K-12 schools nationwide since the 1990s. Time and again, we have a seen how an intentional, holistic focus on developing good character in students can positively transform schools. It creates a safe, caring, supportive environment where students flourish academically and in many other ways. It also helps prepare those same young people to become more responsible, compassionate, accepting, and involved members of our communities, our nation and our world.
At CEP, we think we know how it is that children succeed. Thanks to Paul Tough and his wonderful new book, we hope that many, many more of you will soon reach the same conclusion—character education is not a luxury. On the contrary, today it is an absolute necessity for a child’s success, both in school and in life. So, don’t let anyone tell you that this is an either-or proposition. Good character education is simply good education. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education.
If you have questions or comments for either Mr. Tough or Mr. Hyatt, please comment below or come see them in person at the National Forum on Character Education.