Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

I have been involved recently in a high-profile project wherein it is being asserted that the best response to the challenges of Covid is a restoration of some sort of character education. I have a lot of problems with this, not the least because character education is so often a proxy for blaming the poor for being poor, and because so much of it is based on what can only be characterized as bogus behavioural psych fads like 'grit' and 'respect'. I also don't agree that there is a single coherent concept of what would count as the sort of 'character' people should have - the proponents talk as though the issues of morality and the Good Life have been solved and can be passed along as though they were subjects like math and science.

I would argue we are nowhere near such a resolution. For example, nowhere in their list of "core features" are my own touchstones - distrust of authority, reliance on personal experience, scientific outlook, and sense of freedom and agency. My list of things we need to learn looks very different from theirs. Nor do they include in any way the critical literacies I think characterize an educated person. And they don't recognize that things like ethics and morality are things we have to decide for ourselves are important and worth pursuing; they are the result, not the contents, of good character.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Feb 27, 2024 3:39 p.m.

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