chapter  16
26 Pages

The Discourses of the Upper Midwest's Conception of Character Education

One state from the Upper Midwest invoked a range of discourses in describing its primary goals for character education:

Helping children develop to their full potential as citizens is an important priority offamilies, communities, and schools [citizenship]. Developing citizenship means becoming a productive [Protestant work ethic], responsible [student agency], caring [relationships], and contributing member of society [citizenship]. It includes:

• Being successful in school [academic achievement] • Making responsible decisions [student agency] • Caring about others [relationships] • Contributing to society [citizenship] • Developing social and personal skills, such as problem solving, accepting a va-

riety of perspectives, and setting and attaining goals [student agency] • Developing a core set of common values [moral absoluteness]

The proposal further describes its state's approach as being "about common sense in education--enhancing the total development of children: academic, social, physical, and emotional." If "common sense" is a cultural construction rather than general wisdom (Smagorinsky, Cook, & Reed, 2005), then whatever sense may be attributed to the Upper Midwestern conception of character education is, we would argue, a function of cultural practices specific to the region rather than of a universal sense free of ideo 1ogy. In some parts of the world, for instance, there is little or no formal academic preparation for children, thus making academic achievement a goal

A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carne your name on hearts, not on marble.