Home' Independence : Independence Vol 39 No 1 May 2014 Contents 8 INDEPENDENCE VOL 39 NO 1 MAY 2014
character and integrity of the teacher
is more fundamental than personality
or personal style in class, and it is no
less important than mastery of subject
content and techniques of instruction.
Teaching a subject with integrity
involves more than helping students to
acquire specific bits of knowledge and
skills. Good teaching is underpinned
by an ethos and language that enables
a public discussion of character
within the school community so
that good character permeates all
subject teaching and learning. It also
models commitment to the forms of
excellence or goodness inherent in
the subject matter: the qualities of
craftsmanship, artistry, careful reasoning
and investigations, beauty and power
of language, and deep understanding
made possible by the disciplines. Such
commitment is important if students
are to learn the value of what is taught
and learn to do work that is good and
Exceptional teachers are another
characteristic shared by ‘schools of
character’. They contribute to and
reinforce the school’s values and moral
climate and attract other committed
teachers to the school.
The Jubilee Centre for Character and
Values takes for its inspiration the ideas
of Aristotle, the fourth century BCE
philosopher and scientist whose works
on ethics and politics are still the subject
of study today.
What Aristotle bequeathed us is a
way of understanding the good life, of
developing our character strengths and
above all raising the questions that we
should all ask ourselves. What does it
mean to lead a good life? What is true
happiness? How much money do I need
to lead a good life? What is personal
excellence and how do I achieve it? Is
ambition necessary, or is it a trap? What
is the relationship between virtue and
happiness? How do love, friendship,
luck, health and religion contribute to
Aristotle was very practical. He didn't
want us just to theorise about virtue,
he wanted us to actually become good.
So he poses questions such as, ‘To be
happy what should I be doing that I'm
not doing now, and what am I doing
now that I should stop doing?’
Aristotle does not answer these
questions for us; they are prompts
for self-examination. Yet these are the
questions that many of us fail to answer
and, in some cases, have failed even
to ask. Aristotle understood that the
greatest barrier to finding happiness
is our unwillingness to ask ourselves
tough moral questions because honest
answers would require us to change our
behaviour. He recognised that we all
seek happiness but that we also resist
doing the things that would allow us to
find it. He also recognised that virtues
can be learnt through their application,
and this underpins the Centre’s work in
What is the best way to live is a
question that has preoccupied humanity
for millennia. Philosophers, politicians
and ordinary citizens have all argued
about this question and about the
practical ways to organise society.
Unfortunately, today’s information
explosion means that we are thinking
less and less about more and more.
But, what if we decided to focus more
on virtue as the ultimate organising
principle for ourselves and society?
What would this look like? I believe the
practice of virtue leads to better citizens,
better ways of living, better relationships
and, ultimately, a better world. I am
certain it leads to better schools.
Professor Arthur has written widely on the
relationship between theory and practice in
education, particularly the links between
communitarianism, social virtues, citizenship,
religion and education. Several of his
presentations and papers on virtues, values and
character education can be found on the website
of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Values,
Wiley, L.S. (1998) Comprehensive character-
building classroom: A handbook for teachers.
Manchester: Character Development Foundation.
CHARACTER is educable and its
progress can be measured holistically,
not only through self-reports but also
more objective research methods.
CHARACTER is important: it
contributes to human and societal
CHARACTER is largely caught
through role modelling and emotional
contagion: school culture and ethos
are therefore essential.
CHARACTER should also be taught:
direct teaching of character provides
the rationale, language and tools to
use in developing character elsewhere
in and out of school.
CHARACTER is the foundation for
improved attainment, better behaviour
and increased employability.
CHARACTER should be developed in
partnership with parents, employers
and other community organisations.
CHARACTER results in academic gains
for students, such as higher grades.
CHARACTER education is about
fairness and each child has a right to
CHARACTER empowers students and
CHARACTER demonstrates a readiness
to learn from others.
CHARACTER promotes democratic
From, A Framework for character education
in schools, published by the Jubilee Centre
for Character and Values, available at
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