Does Character Education Work? 5 Experts Weigh In

The Character Education Debate

Have you ever wondered …

Does Character Education Work?

Is character education the best use of learning time?

Should schools be spending money on character education tools?

What about schools WITHOUT character education programs? Are those kids missing out?

What are some examples of service learning projects for elementary students?


It’s no secret. There’s plenty of debate around character education and whether or not it makes any difference.

Everyone has an opinion (surprise, surprise), with hordes flocking to social media to share their thoughts as well as to get feedback:

Mandated Character Education?

Some are even wondering if character education should be required, meaning it would be part of the typical school day.

In fact, a bill is currently under review that would mandate teaching positive character traits in Texas schools. It would cost the school districts an additional $25 million in the first year of implementation. Check out what some are saying about this:

A Word from Those on the Front Lines

So WHICH VOICES should we listen to in this debate, especially when so many are chiming in?

We decided to reach out to some of the top thought-leaders in the education field to get their take on character education and whether it’s needed. Our list includes educators, authors, counselors, speakers, and more, many with decades of experience and insight.

We asked them two simple questions:

“What is character education?”


“Is it helpful?”

Here’s what they said:

Due to rapid changes in technology, character education is MORE IMPORTANT than it was even a decade ago. Character education should be part of every school environment and built within digital citizenship programs. These traits or core values can include proper online behavior, grit, perseverance, empathy, honesty, respect, and kindness. All adults should share a commitment to helping young people become RESPONSIBLE, CARING, and CONTRIBUTING citizens.

—Robyn Shulman, Senior Editor of Thought Leadership for 51Talk

Character education focuses on the development of strengths and well-being. I absolutely think it is HELPFUL and NECESSARY to flourish in the 21st century. In general, when we use our strengths we are better engaged and foster positivity in our lives. We can also harness our strengths and character to cope with challenges and fortify our well-being.

—Nina Webster, Learning Strategist for Ridley College

From the schools that have worked with us, they see SUBSTANTIAL IMPROVEMENT from before they start focusing on character to after they’ve done it for a few years. It’s not a quick fix, but intentional and school-wide character development can improve school climate, staff morale, academic achievement, attendance, etc.

—Heather Cazad, Director of Operations for

Character education is what helps our children be SMART and GOOD by using proven practices that instill the habits of justice, fairness, compassion, integrity, perseverance, respect, responsibility — everything that we want our children to become. It is enormously helpful; parents who raise good children don’t do so by accident. They intentionally cultivate in their children moral identities so they are more likely to engage in prosocial behaviors. I’ve spent the last 30 years observing schools who “do it right” — help their students become smart in mind and heart — and you see it in their students’ behaviors.

—Michele Borba, Internationally Recognized Educator, Speaker, and Best-Selling Author

Simply put, character education helps keep our moral compass working so that we’re in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. We know that character education is working when students want to be in school because it’s a warm and welcoming place so attendance numbers are high, volunteers want to support our work so volunteerism is off the charts, teachers work with students to connect as a school family so discipline referrals are decreased, students are taking responsibility for their own learning so state scores are up, and they want to give back so service learning is alive and well. Now THAT’S a RECIPE FOR SUCCESS!

—Barbara Gruener, Counselor, Character Coach, and Author of What’s Under Your Cape?

Barbara Gruener’s book – What’s Under Your Cape?

It has 5 stars on Amazon … need we say more? Go check it out.

The Facts Don’t Lie

If you’re still not sold on character education, maybe a few cold-hard statistics will do it for you, courtesy of Research clearly shows that character education improves graduation rates, student attendance, math and reading scores, discipline referrals, and suspension rates. As character education guru Barbara Gruener states, “Now that’s a recipe for success!”

Data Source:

So What Do You Think?

Which side are you on in the character education debate? Should it be a mandated part of the school experience, or is it a waste of taxpayer dollars? Do you teach your students how to show respect? Do you teach your students how to gain respect?


In coming posts, we hope to research the following:

  1. 11 principles of effective character education
  2. Film clips for character education
  3. Character education traits list
  4. Character education coloring sheets