By Michael Josephson​

There is mounting evidence that core character traits producing emotional intelligence and “grit” are better indicators of school and life success than pure academic achievement, including grades and standardized test scores. It’s obvious that knowledge itself is not enough. The information and cognitive skills taught by schools need to be operationalized by vital moral and life skill values and attributes embodied in the notion of character education.

We must be careful however to pose the issue in a manner that suggests character education is more important than academic education. Posing the issue in this way is misleading and counterproductive.

Anything that seems to minimize the importance of academic education will meet stiff resistance. A school’s academic obligations will and should always be a core and primary concern. The contention also falsely implies a trade-off may be necessary to promote effective character education.

I think it is more accurate and more effective to use the evidence of the importance of character education to argue that quality character development is essential to quality academic education – it is indispensable. Character development efforts both stimulate and maximize the impact of academic education.

The traits and values instilled and strengthened by an effective program like CHARACTER COUNTS! (which includes ethical values and positive life skills) improves academic performance in many ways directly (improving discipline and study skills, instilling a respect for learning, promoting engagement, developing a growth mindset, and teaching goal-setting and planning) and indirectly (enhancing parent and teacher engagement, creating a safe learning environment conducive to learning.

The added bonus is that character education that includes resiliency and perseverance training, self-discipline and diligence as well as integrity, respect, responsibility, fairness caring and good citizenship also prepares students to live a more socially responsible, successful and fulfilling personal life.

Character education is to the school mission as yeast is to baking.

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