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Christianity and character education: faith in core values?

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Character education is important within the Christian tradition but tends to be viewed with suspicion by educators who privilege autonomy as the aim of a liberal education. Equally, Christians may have concerns that character education places too great an emphasis upon good works rather than God's grace. This article reasons that character education need not be indoctrinatory, in the pejorative sense, on the one hand nor conflated with Christianity on the other. It shows that Christian-ethos schools can promote the autonomy of their students in matters of religion while also providing character education that enables them to choose well. Research from a case study of character education in a school with a Christian ethos is drawn upon to illustrate the capacity such schools have for sharing values while disagreeing about their sources. This is seen as an important feature of character education that is critical and also fosters a tolerant, respectful and inclusive school and society. It is suggested that acknowledging this complexity demonstrates an appreciation of the value of the Christian tradition in character education and within schooling. It also clearly distinguishes between being a Christian and being of good character.
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Keywords: Christian; autonomy; character; ethos; values; virtues

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Education, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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