The Character Education Approach to Teaching Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Case Study: Professional Interview Analysis

The individual interviewed for this case study is a 7th grade teacher of history and literature in a public school. He is named Terry X for the purposes of anonymity. He has been a teacher for 5 years.

The background of the analysis conducted for this case study is composed of parts: much of it has come from Koonce (2016), Knight (2008), Kristjansson (2014), and others who have focused on teaching approaches, issues in education, and the concept of character education, which is particularly important to Terry, as this case study analysis will reveal. The purpose of this analysis was to identify and understand Terry’s approach to education and to locate its place in the wider discussion of the how educational approaches can be used to meet the goals of all stakeholders. The conclusion that this analysis yields is that not all stakeholders have a clear idea or concept of the goals they seek to achieve. This is true for teachers, students, families, administrators, community members, and so on (Knight, 2008; Koonce, 2016). Some want to focus on developing skills in students that will be useful in the workplace, some want to focus on getting the students to pass assessments so that the schools will continue to receive important funding, and some, like Terry, want to focus on character education, which he views as the bedrock of future civilization.

Foundations of Leadership

Terry grew up in a Midwestern suburb of a mid-major city. He attended the local public schools K-12 and then attended two local universities to obtain his Bachelor’s in Literature and History and his Master’s in Education. After obtaining his Bachelor’s he took time off to begin what he described as his “second education”—a tour of the world that was filled with visiting people he had admired from a distance: individuals whose lectures he had read, whose conferences and podcasts he had listened to online, and whose books he had devoured. He visited England, France, Italy, Germany and went east to India, where he worked in an ashram for two years as a volunteer teacher, educating the orphan children in Mumbai. He then returned home and began working on his Master’s, which he completed after two years. Throughout his early twenties, religion became very important to Terry, and, being a Roman Catholic, he began reading the publications of past popes as well as theologians and even philosophers. One of the main reasons for his travels, he said, was to formulate his sense of place in the world, and to crystallize his beliefs about the meaning of life. He had questions that he wanted to put to the people he had admired most throughout his personal intellectual studies and for that reason he set out to meet them, see the world, and gain some real world experience in terms of seeing life in new settings.

From these experiences, his philosophy of education emerged. He described being most shaped by the classical Greek philosophers: Plato and Aristotle. He said he fell in love with Socrates for the first time after reading Plato’s “Euthyphro” and that ever since then he has tried to adopt Socratic methods in his approach to his students, constantly engaging them in discussion and asking them challenging questions to get them to engage more with the material presented, with the past, and with the present. Like Plato and Aristotle, he says that he seeks to reach upward for the Transcendentals and that he seeks to define these for his students so that they are not forever locked in Plato’s “Cave” (a reference to the “Allegory of the Cave” from Plato’s Republic). His philosophy of education was based on the Aristotelian concept of character formation. He said that character education was the foundation of his approach in the classroom: the study of literature and of history helped to educate the characters of his students, and this in turn helped to guide them towards the unum, bonum, verum—the one, the good, the true. Terry linked Aristotle with Aquinas in a manner that contributed to providing students with a moral framework by which they could see themselves and the world around them. Spalding and Gagne (2013) have shown how Aristotle and Aquinas link up in terms of philosophical approaches to morality, and Terry appears to have adopted the same position as the researchers—namely, that philosophical universalism serves as a basis for constructing a specific set of beliefs.

Aristotle shaped Terry’s beliefs convincing him that the there was a moral or natural law written into the fabric of the world and that mankind had this law written on its soul as well. Happiness could best be achieved through a life of virtue—or good habits—and that the point of life was indeed to be happy. Knowing how to pursue a life of virtue was then the most important question. This meshed with his Catholic beliefs, as Aquinas, one of the most famous Catholic theologians of the Middle Ages, based much of his work on the writings of the Greeks.

For Terry, the emphasis on character formation and character education is the most important aspect that an effective educator should develop. One has to be willing to not only set a good example for students but also to bring about that desire to be a good student and a good person for the class as a whole. A teacher should be able to engage with the students and have discussions with them, just as Socrates had discussions with his followers in Athens. Engaging in character formation is essential for teachers to do. However, as Lickona (1993) points out, character education is considerably difficult today because there is no consensus opinion on what constitutes a good character. For Terry, there is no question: the ancients have the best approach to character education. Yet, for teachers who admire modern philosophy more than classical philosophy, the sense of “good character” can differ substantially as “goodness” and “character” are viewed far more subjectively and loosely or even skeptically by modern philosophers than by Plato or Aristotle or Aquinas, for instance.

Terry described his “call” to be an educator as emanating from his desire to achieve the unum, bonum, verum. His own quest for a life of virtue and a life of happiness has been the seed or plant from which his “call” to educate others has grown. He views himself in a way to be similar to Socrates, who said that he asked questions and spoke of philosophy not because he himself considered himself to be a teacher who knew things but rather because he felt that he didn’t know anything and wanted to know (Plato, 2010). Terry’s religious views clearly have impacted his approach to education. Feeling that Christianity presents the truth about God and indeed the history of the world, Terry is compelled to teach literature and history through a Christian lens. He focuses his teaching, moreover, by underpinning it with the philosophical teachings the classical Greeks.

Critical Issues

The three most critical issues currently facing educators, according to Terry, are: 1) the need for character education, 2) the need for more individualism on the part of teachers (i.e., a separation from the standardized curriculum that binds teachers to focusing on subjects that they personally may not feel are important, and 3) less attention given to assessments,…

Sources Used in Document:


Knight, G. (2008). Issues and alternatives in educational philosophy (4th ed.). Berrien

Springs, MI: Andrews University Press.

Koonce, G. (2016) (Ed.), Taking sides: Clashing views on educational issues expanded

(18 Ed.). McGraw Hill Publishers.

Kristjansson, K. (2014). There is something about Aristotle: the pros and cons of

Aristotelianism in contemporary moral education. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 48(1): 48-68.

Lickona, T. (1993). The return of character education. Educational Leadership, 51(3),


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