Terminology for Character Education

"Character" is one of those overarching concepts that is the subject of disciplines from philosophy to theology, from psychology to sociology – with many competing and conflicting theories.

Character as it relates to character education is most often used to refer to how 'good' a person is - in other words, a person who exhibits personal qualities which fit with those considered desirable by a society might be considered to have good character and developing such personal qualities is often then seen as a purpose of education. However, the various proponents of character education are far from agreement as to what "good" is or what qualities are desirable to develop. Compounding this problem is that there is no scientific definition of character. Because such a concept blends personality and behavioral components, scientists have long since abandoned use of the term "character" and, instead, use the term psychological motivators to measure the behavioral predispositions of individuals. With no clinically defined meaning, there is virtually no way to measure if an individual has a deficit of character, or if a school program can improve it.

The various terms in the lists of values proposed by character education programs - even those which some programs hold in common - share the same problem of having vague definitions making need and effectiveness equally problematic to measure.