Essay: Trends that helped Dismantle Character Education in America

Sample Essay

Words 1,230

This essay discusses some trends that helped dismantle character education in America. During World War II, the American society brought forth a short reaffirmation of character education.  According to McClellan (1999), the war was viewed as a “moral contest in which the values of democracy and decency were arrayed against the forces of authoritarianism and evil.

Other trends that helped dismantle character education in America were two philosophical theories from Europe called “logical positivism” and “moral relativism”, which gained popularity and influence in American universities in the mid-20th century.  Logical positivism asserted that people needed to distinguish between established facts which can be scientifically proven, and value judgments which are simply opinions.  Positivists opposed efforts to teach virtues on the grounds that moral claims could not be proven (Josephson, 2002).  Moral relativism suggested that “right and wrong” are simply matters of opinion that are unique to individual cultures and personal traditions, and therefore open to interpretation.

During World War II, the American society brought forth a short reaffirmation of character education.  According to McClellan (1999), the war was viewed as a “moral contest in which the values of democracy and decency were arrayed against the forces of authoritarianism and evil, and classrooms were expected to play an important role in the battle” (p. 71).  In the aftermath of World War II, character education would shift towards more of a civics focus in light of the encroaching Cold War.  McClellan writes,

“Without ever fully confronting the implications for moral education, postwar Americans began to demand that schools emphasize high-level academic and cognitive skills, often at the expense of the various forms of moral, civic, and social education that had been emphasized by earlier generations” (p. 73).

The priority of character education was changing in America due to a growing need for high-level technical skills, as concerns over the threat of communist control continued to expand (Beachum & McCray, 2005).

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