Can Character Education be Dangerous?

Teaching others in general is an extremely responsible activity. One needs to be sure of the correctness of the information they are providing because if they find themselves in an authority position, chances are that those listening will take everything they’re saying for granted. Same applies to character education as it appears at home and in schools. More and more children these days undergo lessons, are exposed to teaching methods, activities and conversations with their parents that are supposed to encourage the development of a good character and make them functioning parts of society. However, is that really a desirable thing and what comes out of such teaching if the person doing so is not equipped for it?

A very easy example to illustrate how detrimental character education can be is a parent, who has experienced great hardships, teaching their child how unjust the world is, how they should stay away from certain things and so on. What’s happening here is the parent projecting their experience onto a child with what they believe is a good way to shape the child’s character so that he or she does not get hurt that same way they did. However, it is evident that such teachings can prevent the child from fully integrating into the society and exploring things that would shape their individual personality.

Uniform Societies and Lack of Creativity

This question of benefits of character education has indeed been raised. While we can all agree that teaching a child about the detrimental effects of stealing is desirable, we must consider the broader consequences of instilling the same virtues to all children, which is essentially what the long terms image of character education seems to be. First of all, the children will lack skills necessary to progress with shaping their own character. There is a danger that the children will become dependent on these teachings and expect to always be told what is the right and the wrong thing to do. That will lead to a place where everyone thinks and behaves the same, and we can all agree that this is not the environment we would ideally live in.

One other aspect to consider is that societies are not always right. We tend to think of ourselves as people who know better than those who came before us and are enlightened when it comes to the right virtues, but in fact all modern societies have distinctly different understandings of what is good or bad. Teaching children instead of allowing them to decide for themselves can be a celebrated thing in some cases, but it can also prevent many of them from naturally developing traits that are in some way morally superior to those that societies hold right now.

It must be emphasized that most of the artists, thinkers and other intellectual driving forces of our societies were not people who in most ways conformed to the masses. Instead they were people who started shaping strong beliefs and personalities when they were young and grew up to be those who challenge all that is or was wrong with the society at the time and drive progress.

So yes, essentially character education is a good thing, but the consequences of doing it wrong must also be considered.