What’s wrong with character education? (Dr Lee Jerome)
Date & time: 10th January 2018, 1-2pm
Location: c107, College Building, Middlesex University, London
In this paper I argue that the recent policy focus on character education is problematic in part because it resonates so strongly with educational discourses which focus excessively on the individual child (their potential, attainment and deficits) and pay too little attention to social and contextual factors. Whereas citizenship education places a greater emphasis on working together politically and learning through such collaborative endeavours, the focus on character tends to emphasise individual change as the precursor to improved social relationships. This shift of emphasis may seem relatively minor, but against the backdrop of enhanced individual monitoring and accountability in schools and the more general therapeutic turn in education, which encourages a semi-psychologised approach to dealing with problems, the focus on character can easily become another mechanism for social control. Whilst in principle the advocates of character education argue that it can lead to effective citizenship, in practice I argue it is more likely to lead to a form of de-politicised introspection and conformity. The paper will analyse some educational resources promoted to schools in England to illustrate these tendencies and discuss the ways in which this may be harmful to the broader educational goals of developing a politically informed citizenry.