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What is Character?

Character is one of those terms everyone defines a little differently, and most of those definitions would be right. For us, character is the intentional effort of living out one’s core values and working on continuous growth through ethical and compassionate decision-making. Core values are an individual or group’s most significant, deeply held beliefs that serve as a guide for how we think, feel and what we do.

Character is positive values in action.

Thomas Lickona

This is not a definitive nor exhaustive description of character. Scholars and character development practitioners have grappled with the term character for years, and that will continue. Character.org hopes this gives you a starting point and a curiosity to dig deeper. Build your own definition as you select and define your own core values.

Why Character Matters

Jack London says that character is the ultimate success factor. It doesn’t simply make the individual successful but those around you as well. In a world writhed with consequences from lack of character, decisions rooted in positive character shine a light in the darkness that inspires others to prioritize ethics and compassion. Character impacts every individual in our community, and in today’s world made small by technology, it impacts those outside of our community as well.

The 11 Principles

The 11 Principles were originally authored by Thomas Lickona, Eric Schaps and Catherine Lewis for Character.org, then the Character Education Partnership, in 1995. They were developed after a study comparing a multitude of successful schools. Their common traits became the 11 Principles. Since then, skilled researchers and practitioners have reviewed and revised the 11 Principles regularly to make sure they stay relevant to today’s audience, and they will continue to be updated biannually. This way we will sustain the best research-based practices in character development for communities all over.

Core values are defined, implemented, and embedded into school culture.

The school defines “character” comprehensively to include thinking, feeling, and doing.

The school uses a comprehensive, intentional, and proactive approach to character development.

The school creates a caring community.

The school provides students with opportunities for moral action.

The school offers a meaningful and challenging academic curriculum that respects all learners, develops their character, and helps them to succeed.

The school fosters students’ self-motivation.

All staff share the responsibility for developing, implementing, and modeling ethical character.

The school’s character initiative has shared leadership and long-range support for continuous improvement.

The school engages families and community as partners in the character initiative.

The school assesses its implementation of character education, its culture and climate, and the character growth of students on a regular basis.

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