A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

April 21, 2007

Virtue Education: Does it Work?

For part of my Ed.D program I had to attend a practical research symposium. Some of the topics were rather interesting, and one of them dealt with an action research proposal, where findings from a doctoral dissertation were applied to a school building.

Here is the abstract of the study and some of the initial findings that were reported; all followed by commentary by yours truly.

Character Education: An Elementary School’s Journey Toward Implementing a Virtues-based Program. By Deborah DeLuca Ed.d


“Down through history and all over the world, education has had tow great goals: to help people become smart and to help them become good. ‘Good’ can be defined in terms of moral values that have objective worth, values that affirm our human dignity, and promote the ood of the individual and society” (Lickona, 1991) Ryan (2003) contines this thinking by reminding us that “Socrates defined education as what we do to help young people become both smart and good. ” Together, the ideas and rigors of character and the ability to demonstrate virtues are what our democracy is based upon.

However, academic test-based accountability is taking the center stage in public education and the social and emotional domains which are prerequisites to academic success are often overlooked. This study focused on one large suburban elementary school from Long Island, New York, where a focus on a Social and Emotional Literacy and a “virtues-based” Character edcuation approach has significantly impacted student behavior. In addition, some positive academic gains were noted.

From the lecture: Ten Virtues are explained and set about as a monthy theme for the entire school (K-5) with the Principal modeling the expected behaviors to all students in an assembly and with teachers enfusing these traits into daily learning activities. Virtues are emphasized, and not values. Values can be applied equally to positive and negative activities and are morally neutral. Virtues are always positive moral contributions.

Respect: Showing high regard for an authority, other people, self and country; treating others as you would want to be treated; understanding that all people have value as human beings.

Responsibility: Being accountable in word and deed; having a sense of duty to fulfill tasks with reliability, dependability and commitment.

Honesty: Telling the truth, admiting wrongdoing; being trustworthy, and acting with integrity.

Tolerance: Enduring or putting up with practices or beliefs that are different from your own; keeping an open and understanding mind and accepting difference even if you don’t agree with it.

Perseverance: Continuing to do something in spite of difficulties; facing obstacles with determination and patience.

Empathy: Understanding and being sensitive to the feelings, thoughts and experiences of another.

Integrity: Standing up for your beliefs about right or wrong; being your best self; resisiting social pressure to do things that are wrong; showing commitment, courage and self discipline. “Walk your talk”.

Humility: Recognizing and accepting your own talents, abilities and imperfections.

Forgiveness: Letting go of angry feelings; excusing or pardoning an offense.

Compassion: Showing understanding of others by treating them with kindness, genorosity and a forgiving spirit.

Other Data: Since implementing this policy the school has undergone a radical shift in behavior. The year before the changes were brought about the 800 students had about 175 disciplinary referrals and nearly 180 bus incidents. Last year school referrals went down to about 100 but bus incidents rose to nearly 200, however, this current year, there have been 13 discipline referrals and 35 bus referrals.

Commentary: I think this school is to be applauded in its positive framing of behavior, and I will follow their progress with interest. It is so refreshing to hear “good news” come out of an education setting.



  1. […] Virtue Education: Does it Work? Posted in schools, children, education, learning. […]

    Pingback by Ideas Man 2 Whatfor Schools? « — April 21, 2007 @ 11:37 pm | Reply

  2. It looks like the Founders were right after all. To live in a self-governing free society, moral disciple is mandatory. They believed religion is the primary source of morality. The power of religion makes moral virtues doable in the long-term. Forgiving an undeserving other is not easy action in the real world. Being religious does not make it any easier. The connection between a person needing to forgive and his/her God make the outcome of the hard act of forgiving ultimately life changing. Notice, I did not say when one does their can be no social consequences. What i did say is no personal life-change necessarily happens without the divine interaction. I do not know of anyone who has experienced otherwise. Nevertheless, any and all positive educational program s like Virtues Ed. is to be applauded.

    Comment by Daniel — April 22, 2007 @ 1:04 am | Reply

  3. Very cool.
    I actually was a christian school kid so we had the same virtues taught every year. The “fruits of the spirit” to be exact. I don’t really have anything to compare it to as that was my experience. But these stats are rather convincing!

    Comment by mommyzabs — April 22, 2007 @ 1:16 am | Reply

  4. I think it is vital to keep the teaching of virtues in a public school as a secular project. While inputs from religions are welcome, it would be bad public policy and illegal to show favoritism to one religion over another, so I am “very” careful about using religious language other than within an historical context.

    When I address issues as this to my class, and I do OFTEN, I use Aristotle’s view of Natural Law. I quote from him, and since Ancient History is my main core area, it’s easy to do, and we will often apply his rules of Natural Law, that inside all men is an inner knowledge to know good from evil to situations in history and daily life.

    It is a powerful and dynamic reflective experience. I also have found that my own “discipline” problems are minimal, and I admit I give a lot of leeway to what I view as “normal” 12 year old behavior. However, I honestly feel that children react positively when they know that the teacher is on their side, and that there are expectations of positive behavior, but when there is correction it is corrective, not mean spirited.

    Comment by avoiceofreason — April 22, 2007 @ 1:23 am | Reply

  5. […] and funding for use in public schools, sports programs, and many other organizations. Does it work? In a word, YES! The object is to build a solid foundation of character on the six pillars […]

    Pingback by After All is Said and Done, What REALLY Counts? | blogsense-by-barb — May 20, 2011 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

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