- Moral character, or virtue, leads to morally good actions and motives, displayed stably and reliably over time in a variety of situations.
- We are generally not as good as we think. While we are not generally morally bankrupt, there is a significant gap between what we want to be and what we tend to be — a ‘character gap’. For example, studies on the ‘bystander effect’ reveal that the vast majority of us will follow the crowd rather than do what we know is right.
- It’s best in schools to concentrate on a few, developmentally appropriate virtues consonant with the values of the school, rather than a broad swathe.
Strategies for promoting virtue at home and at school can vary in their effectiveness. Those which the evidence suggests are more likely to succeed include:
- reminding boys of morally good behaviour (e.g. by an honour code);
- encouraging boys to emulate virtuous role models (e.g. consider which films to watch and discuss as a family);
- teaching boys about the virtues and helping them put them into practice (e.g. via a gratitude journal);
- teaching boys about their own character flaws, such as hidden cognitive biases;
- encouraging boys to engage in Christian practices (e.g. prayer, giving, worship) which have character improvement as as byproduct (e.g. humility, generosity, gratitude)
For more parent and teacher resources from Professor Miller, visit The Character Portal. If you are interested in finding out more about how we are building expertise in Character and Care, please don’t hesitate to contact me or Dr Tom Cerni, Head of Counselling, Character and Care.
Dr Hugh Chilton