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Character Education

Historically, it was assumed that America's public schools would help parents effectively develop the character of their children by teaching them moral and ethical lessons. As American society became more secularized in the latter half of the 20th century, controversies arose over whether, and how, public schools should engage in the character education of children. Disturbed by the increasing failure of public schools to effectively engage in the character education of their students and the failure of many parents to take responsibility for doing so, in 1995, the Georgia General Assembly passed a law mandating that local public school systems adopt and implement a character education curriculum. The law provided that the character education program was to focus on the students development of the following character traits: courage, patriotism, citizenship, honesty, fairness, respect for others, kindness, cooperation, self-respect, self-control, courtesy, compassion, tolerance, diligence, generosity, punctuality, cleanliness, cheerfulness, school pride, respect for the environment, respect for the creator, patience, creativity, sportsmanship, loyalty, perseverance, and virtue.

Unfortunately, by 2000, controversy arose over the teaching of character in Georgia's public schools. Most public school officials ignored the state mandate. Those opposed to character education challenged those public school districts and principals who attempted to follow the state mandate. Those with different viewpoints regarding how to teach the character traits contained in the law prevented any real progress. Yet, other states, such as Utah, Arizona, Tennessee, and Ohio, made real progress in implementing character education in their public schools.

The failure of the vast majority of local public school districts in Georgia to follow the state’s character education mandate is a significant and disturbing development. Despite the availability of national resources, such as the Character Education Partnership and the Character Counts! Curriculum, Georgia public schools have neglected one of their primary educational obligations. GCF is committed to exposing this shortcoming and in educating public school leaders about their obligation under Georgia’s character education mandate. The continued failure of Georgia's public schools to educate their students for character evidences the need for parents to have other publicly-funded options for the education of their children for character, either at public charter schools, independent schools, private religious schools, or home schools.