Sunday, October 2, 2011

How Is A Principle-Based Character Developed?

As a follow up to the previous post related to teachers' comfort with teaching ethics, this month will focus upon issues related to character development.  In The 7 Habits ofHighly Effective People, Covey (1989) contends when a person is principle-centered then his or her core values serve as an anchor, keeping him or her from being thrown about by the storms of life.  Therefore, character means that he or she will live based on a set of deeply held, carefully defined, values that the person isn’t willing to break.  Since knowledge of right compared to wrong is more than a simple process of being aware of specific social rules, and doing the right thing is not a simple matter of putting those rules into practice, Nucci (1997) contends moral education must attend to issues of social cognition and moral reasoning.  However,” if individual moral actions are guided by choices and not simply the result of unreflective habit, then the issue for character education rests not with inculcation and habit formation, but in understanding how it is that people judge the worth of their own actions in relation to their world view and sense of themselves as moral beings” (p.130).  
Sarbin (1986) contends the notion of character as a set of externally provided traits and habits needs to be reconsidered.  Instead, a view in which the moral self is constructed rather than absorbed and is being continuously updated and reconstructed should be emphasized.  Nucci (2000) cited Noam's (1993) and Blasi’s work concerning the moral self, whereby morality may or may not be a central element of the general narrative constructed by a person.  Therefore, Blasi’s perspective infers that a central feature of moral character is actually the degree to which being a moral person attains salience as a part of that person’s self-definition.  
 A person may basically be an animal endowed by nature with some very primitive instincts, yet, Simon (2009) believes each person has the capacity to learn and grow in awareness.  This process makes it possible for him or her to become more than mere animal through the processes of socialization and character development.  Simon astutely notes this process is difficult, painful, complex, and generally life-long; resulting in a great deal of diversity related to true character.
      Since followers evaluate the actual or aspiring leader’s character, competence, and commitment, Seijts and Kilgour (2007) believe any perceived gaps between what the leader communicates and actually does impacts the leader’s credibility.  It is therefore reasonable to understand why followers become disillusioned whenever a leader reflects mere images of the values he or she purports to uphold, resulting in followers’ believing the leader does not show principled leadership.  As a result, the perception of ethical leadership depreciates, thereby adversely impacting the leader’s ability to effectively lead.  To lead effectively, it is essential for a leader to walk ethically rather than merely talk about ethics.  In the laboratory known as the classroom, where young minds and hearts first learn paradigms of social leadership, the classroom leader, also known as the teacher, needs to be especially cognizant of this need for principled leadership. 

Covey, S.R. (1989) The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the character ethic.       
           New York, NY. Simon and Schuster
Noam, G., & Wren, T. E. (Eds.). (1993). The moral self. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press
Nucci, L (1997) in Walberg, H. J. & Haertel, G. D. Psychology and educational
            practice. Berkeley: MacCarchan. p. 127-157.
Sarbin, T. (1986). Narrative psychology: The storied nature of human conduct. New York:
Seijts, G. H., & Kilgour, D. (2007). Principled Leadership: Taking The Hard
            Right. Ivey Business Journal, 71(5), 1. Retrieved from EBSCOhost