Q. and A.: Can You Teach Character?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 08:00 AM

The New York Times Magazine is publishing a special issue on education this Sunday, including an incredible story by Paul Tough exploring how two venerable New York City schools, KIPP and Riverdale Country School, are forging a new frontier in character education. As the article shows, KIPP, which has several charter schools in Harlem and the South Bronx, and Riverdale, one of the city's elite private schools, embraced similar curricula with very different outcomes.

Dave Levin, the charismatic superintendent of KIPP New York, and Dominic Randolph, Riverdale's iconoclastic headmaster, have agreed to answer reader's questions on SchoolBook all week. To submit a question, click here or scroll to the bottom of this post.

But first, here's a look at KIPP's revolutionary "character report card" (use the zoom bar to get a closer look.

And here's a list of the 24 character strengths identified in "Character Strengths and Virtues," the 2004 book by Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman that was the origin of this initiative.

The 24 Character Strengths

Zest: approaching life with excitement and energy; feeling alive and activated
Grit: finishing what one starts; completing something despite obstacles; a combination of
persistence and resilience.
Self-control: regulating what one feels and does; being self-disciplined
Social intelligence being aware of motives and feelings of other people and oneself
Gratitude: being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen
Love: valuing close relationships with others; being close to people
Hope: expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it
Humor: liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing a light side
Creativity: coming up with new and productive ways to think about and do things
Curiosity: taking an interest in experience for its own sake; finding things fascinating
Open-mindedness: examining things from all sides and not jumping to conclusions
Love of learning: mastering new skills and topics on one’s own or in school
Wisdom: being able to provide good advice to others
Bravery: not running from threat, challenge, or pain; speaking up for what’s right
Integrity: speaking the truth and presenting oneself sincerely and genuinely
Kindness: doing favors and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them
Citizenship: working well as a member of a group or team; being loyal to the group
Fairness: treating all people the same; giving everyone a fair chance
Leadership: encouraging a group of which one is a valued member to accomplish
Forgiveness: forgiving those who’ve done wrong; accepting people’s shortcomings
Modesty: letting one’s victories speak for themselves; not seeking the spotlights
Prudence/Discretion: being careful about one’s choices; not taking undue risks
Appreciation of beauty: noticing and appreciating all kinds of beauty and excellence
Spirituality: having beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe


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