WHAT IS CHARACTER EDUCATION?
Character education is based on the idea of teaching children about the basic human values including honesty, kindness, generosity, courage, freedom, equality, integrity, and respect. It includes teaching problem-solving and conflict resolution,
so that students can make good choices, and see how those choices affect themselves, and others they are involved with. The goal of character education is to raise children to become morally responsible, self-disciplined citizens. Business leaders express the need for a workforce that is not only intellectually knowledgeable, but also caring and responsible. According to Bob Chase, President of the National Education Association, “we must train teachers in Character Education… And we must consciously set about creating a moral climate within our schools”.
Along with Character education comes an understanding of emotional intelligence (EQ, or Emotional Quotient) which is defined as self-awareness, and awareness of others, understanding feelings, understanding the difference between thinking, feeling, and acting, and understanding that actions have consequences. It relates to mood management, impulse control, and anger management. Self-motivation and empathy are aspects of emotional intelligence that assist in learning how to make friends, handle friendships, cooperate and collaborate in learning and social skill development.
WHY DO WE NEED CHARACTER EDUCATION?
Children today spend an average of 5.5 hours a day involved in media activities such as television, playing video games and surfing the Web. Since the 1950’s, more than 3,500 documented studies and Joint Statements issued by scientific and public health communities (American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry) and reports from the Federal Trade Commission prove the causal connection between media violence and its negative affects on behaviors including increased aggression, violent behaviors and the inability to discriminate between real life and entertainment violence. The United States Senate Judiciary Committee concludes: “The effect of media violence on our children is no longer open to debate.”
Research indicates that no electronic medium’s effects are all good or all bad, but the content makes all the difference. According to the Centers for Disease Control, media violence is the single key factor in an escalating violent crime rate.
Studies published in the July 2002 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health suggest that prevention programs need to begin in elementary school in order to be most effective in reducing children’s and adolescent’s use of alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana.
The CAN DO! Curriculum Connection © Introduction
The Character Education Partnership, a non-profit, nonpartisan, nonsectarian coalition of organizations including the National Education Association, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National PTA, and National School Boards Association, supports “the teaching and modeling of positive character traits within our nation’s schools and fostering in youth, core ethical values such as respect, responsibility, fairness, compassion and honesty.”
Emotional well-being – or knowing how to manage one’s emotions – is predictive of academic achievement and is as important for success in school and in the world of work and marriage as intellect. In a November 6, 1999 speech delivered at a conference on Social and Emotional Learning and Digital Technology, Dr. James Comer, a national leader in social and emotional learning in addressing Columbia Teachers College about the impact a child’s school and home settings can have on his/her development, explains that an atmosphere that provides support for one’s social and emotional learning and competence versus one that does not can make a huge difference in that child’s life.
Although children are born with different temperaments, or how they approach things—social, laid back, intense, shy, etc., EQ helps parents and teachers work with these qualities so children can better cope in the world. Emotional intelligence is self-awareness. What are your feelings and why are you feeling that way? Although this can be very difficult for some, once a person begins to understand himself or herself, he or she can begin to develop other emotional skills, which leads to more emotional intelligence. There are some patterns that block the use of a person’s emotional intelligence: fear and worry, avoiding pain, negative self-image, unrealistic expectations, and blaming others. When these blocks occur and emotional intelligence isn’t used, people end up acting in unsuccessful ways. The goal is to be more informed about emotions and let them help overcome obstacles in life. Emotional intelligence is learned.
Brain-based learning is based on how the brain functions, and engages in storing new information. Some core principles of brain-based learning include use of patterning to create meaning, involvement of emotions in learning, engaging the whole physiology, stimulation with relevant learning, use of embedding facts in natural, spatial memory.
The search for meaningful information – or a sense of purpose – is the driving force that motivates us to learn. Relevant learning (as opposed to solely behavioral reward and punishment) boosts the brainpower of students and their ability to participate in a thinking environment on issues that affect their lives and the choices they make.
The CAN DO! Curriculum Connection © Introduction
Learning is enhanced when it builds and expands from the knowledge already present in each child. This foundation of knowledge allows for the inclusion of new facts, ideas, and skills. The child can bring much to the learning when we validate his natural memory, opinions, and input based on his own experiences and thoughts.
“Studies launched by the American Society for Training and Development evidenced the ironic point that memorization (alone), particularly as practiced in our schools, does not work to provide a foundation in basic skills and knowledge. This approach, predicated on the beliefs that what we learn can be reduced to specific readily identifiable parts and that equally identifiable rewards and punishments can be used to “produce” the desired learning does not open doors to the future; it imprisons students in their own minds. They are literally de-motivated in many respects; in particular, their innate search for meaning is short-circuited and they are actually deprived of some major rewards, namely the joy and excitement that are the consequences of real learning.”(Deci and Ryan 1987)
“People access passion when deep meanings are engaged” Renata Numella Caine, Geoffrey Caine Making Connections … Teaching and the Human Brain, 1991
Higher level thinking skills more directly engage the global operations of the brain. When learning includes the senses and emotions, overall learning is dispersed throughout brain cells and creates more balance in the brain. This greatly reduces stress on specific brain cells while engaging students in exciting discussion and meaningful learning.
Group discussion in the classroom has been proven to be extremely useful for teachers as well as students. Groups can trigger multiple ways of interacting and form a natural self-organization of the group. Stanford research further confirms that there is a definite and critical link between verbal interaction and learning. When all students are encouraged to become involved and contribute their own experiences to the discussion, each student can be a learner and each can be a teacher.
“Learning increases when students are jointly engaged in problem solving.”
Stanford research on “Complex Instruction” (Cohen 1984; Cohen and Lotan 1990;
Cohen, Lotan and Leechor 1989)
WHY IS IT THE MUSIC?
Rhythm, melody and harmony stimulate several areas of the brain important to emotion. Isolated tones, scales and simple tonal sequences have all been found to have
The CAN DO! Curriculum Connection © Introduction an energizing effect on the body. Research shows that musical arts enhance the cognitive process and greatly affect the ability to learn by focusing thinking and boosting creativity.
ALPHA and THETA brain waves create calm and relaxation which are more conducive to memory and enhanced creativity than normal brain wave function (BETA). Therefore, music can be used with great validity as a teaching tool in the classroom to aid in the learning process. The “musical communication” of content information engages the attention of the student in ways that text books alone cannot.
Because music is auditory (hearing), kinesthetic/tactile (movement), and tactual (elicits emotion), it stimulates cognitive function. Adding the printed word (song lyrics), music also stimulates the visual modality. Through emotion and patterning, music provides deeper meaning for the individual and therefore enhances the learning process. Repetitive musical learning formats (songs, poems, rhymes) are dynamic and effective vehicles for cumulative learning.
More than 80% of all information processed by the brain comes in through our ears! The brain commonly stores information with mental strategies, such as rhymes. This is an invaluable way for the brain to remember and recall information. When rhymes are added to music, a powerful teaching tool is born: A Song.
Advertisers utilize songs and musical techniques with clever jingles to help us remember their products. Songs have historically been used as effective vehicles to help students remember information – beginning with the ABC Song! Educators know that songs can play a vital role in the formation of character traits. Research over the past 30 years has proven a causal connection between negative song lyrics and negative behaviors. Conversely, songs that communicate character-building thoughts and ideas have a positive impact on the minds and behaviors of students.
Well constructed songs written in popular genres and utilized in the classroom can maximize the imprinting of information to help students learn, remember, and make more positive life choices. Songs containing rich lyrical value-driven content, high quality music production and messages that address issues that directly affect youth are exceptionally strong educational tools.