The following text is excerpted from Dr. Matthew Post's longer article "Character Education in the United States: 1992-2022: A Retrospective," which appears in the 2022 revised version of Core Virtues: A Literature-based Program in Character Education K-6. Dr. Post is an Assistant Professor of Humanities and Acting Director of the Saint Ambrose Center for Catholic Liberal Education at the University of Dallas. His research is in Ancient Political Philosophy and Classical Education.
Here Professor Post describes three approaches to character education that have emerged in the last three decades, and where the Core Virtues approach fits in this spectrum.
Character Education 1992-2022 : Three Approaches Matthew Post, Ph.D.
Any approach to character education assumes answers to three key questions: (a) How do I understand the human person? (b) What is the place of the human person in society and the world? and (c) What is the end of education? Very few practitioners within any given approach will explicitly address these questions, but we sometimes unwittingly address them through our content and pedagogy. For example, if all we do is speak of marketable skills, then, whether we intend to do so or not, we convey something to the student of who they are (i.e., a prospective employee), what their place is (i.e., to work in a company), and what the end of education is (i.e., work preparation). There’s not necessarily anything wrong with this. Almost all of us are employees. But such an education can become problematic when it suggests that being an employee is all we are or what is most important about us. As we explore different approaches to character education, we will find that some approaches address these questions more explicitly than others, but we should try to keep the questions in the back of our minds regardless.
For simplicity, we will consider three major categories of approaches, which have evolved over the past three decades: traditional, social science based, and progressive. As we shall see, these approaches are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Even so, within each approach, there are adherents whose outlook is, or comes close to being, exclusive of the others.
Traditional More so than the other approaches, the traditional approach often does explicitly answer the three questions raised above. This approach understands the human person as rational and free, and explains education as the pursuit of an objective unchanging truth, which entails intellectual, moral, and civic formation toward a virtuous life. These approaches often, though not always, place greater emphasis on reason than liberty, insofar as reason helps to illuminate the difference between the free pursuit of virtue and the licentious pursuit of vice.
Traditional approaches are defined by their respect for pedagogical strategies, writings, exemplars, and understandings of virtue that have been handed down to us by our forebears, not as what was commonplace in their respective times, but as what was best according to their judgments—judgments that are themselves built upon the judgments of those who came before them. This does not mean idolizing or otherwise treating the past uncritically, though. A traditional approach may accept the argument of the American Founders that virtue education was essential to exercising liberty responsibly and therefore essential to the success of a representative democratic republic. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a traditional approach integrates the kind of corporal punishment common during the Founding era. Moreover, traditional approaches in the U.S. often acknowledge and highlight Western civilization as part of America’s cultural backdrop. A key part of Western civilization is openness to other civilizations, and so this approach may also integrate elements from other traditions.
An outstanding example of a traditional approach can be found at Great Hearts Academies. GHA draws from Core Knowledge’s emphasis on learning key content and on direct instruction because the organization regards education as the pursuit of objective truth. GHA’s STEM classes also exhibit a respect for pursuing truth in mathematics and the natural world, but adopt recent pedagogical strategies, and so many GHA schools use Singapore math, not Euclid’s Elements, when teaching mathematics.
As students get older, GHA places greater emphasis on inquiry, Socratic seminar, and the independent reading of original sources. These emphases respect the student as rationally capable of framing and pursuing questions while also respecting the student’s freedom in determining which questions to pursue and how to pursue them… with some guidance from the teacher. GHA’s attentiveness to the Great Books, in particular, distinguishes it as a traditional approach, as GHA gives careful thought to which works (literary, philosophic, artistic, and so on) can be truly said to have been handed down as part of the canon.
Although GHA students are introduced to a vocabulary of intellectual and moral virtue through direct instruction and invited to explore the definitions, implications, challenges, and potential practices of virtue, these discussions are always tied to class content. Moreover, GHA discusses the pursuit of the true, the beautiful, and the good, that is, excellence in matters intellectual, aesthetic, and moral. But GHA schools typically do not make virtue an explicit theme through virtues of the month, assemblies, or other activities whose explicit and sole goal is the consideration or practice of virtue. Even so, like all the schools that we will discuss, GHA offers students opportunities to serve their communities through extra-curricular programs.
True North Classical Academy in Miami, Florida—a Core Virtues school—offers another model of a traditional approach. In addition to many of the features found at GHA schools, True North organizes its schools according to the tradition liberal arts of the Trivium, with a grammar school for Grades K–5, a logic school for grades 6–8, and a rhetoric school for grades 9–12. This kind of organization is common among classical schools and is inspired by Dorothy Sayers’s 1947 essay, “The Lost Tools of Learning.” The emphasis on grammar and logic concerns intellectual virtues, from memorization to rigorous critical inquiry. However, the emphasis on rhetoric introduces the moral and the civic, as students are encouraged not simply to convincingly appeal to others, but rather to think about others’ perspectives and how to persuade them to undertake worthwhile and noble actions.
The traditional approach, to both character education and education in general, is sometimes controversial. Parents may worry that too strong a regard for the past can divert attention from more recent developments and studies important for pursuing a career, like those in STEM. And, as we shall see shortly, progressives are concerned that traditional approaches may include, overtly or subtly, prejudices against women, African Americans, gay people, and others, hypocritically debasing people based on superficial or unobjectionable qualities and ignoring their character and worth. The dress codes of more traditional schools, intended to encourage a more serious, respectful attitude toward teachers and fellow students, can be seen by progressives as a way to suppress student self-expression or group identity. To be sure, these concerns aren’t without some cause, but the underlying attitudes that they highlight for criticism are not necessarily integral to the traditional approach. Whether a school develops a culture that is disrespectful or harmful to girls, African American students, Hispanic students, and so on, must be judged on a case-by-case basis, and such failings aren’t unique to any given approach. GHA, to give one example, has an internal Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) group to address these concerns.
Social Science-Based Social science-based approaches to character education draw authority, in large part or completely, from research undertaken primarily by psychologists. In the United States, research in this field has been spearheaded by developmental psychologists such as Darcia Narvaez (University of Notre Dame), whose work with key collaborators in Developing the Virtues: Integrating Perspectives and Handbook of Moral and Character Education are academic staples, and also by positive psychologists such as Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman, whose Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification, along with Seligman’s own Flourish, provide a different framework to think about character and flourishing. These approaches, taken as a whole, do not give common answers to the three questions mentioned above. This goes hand-in-hand with the attempt, in the social sciences generally, not to pre-judge, but instead to be as objective and impartial as possible. However, individual researchers nevertheless make assumptions about the answers to these questions. For this reason, social science approaches can be loosely allied with either the traditional or progressive approaches. Unlike the traditional and progressive approaches, however, we do not commonly find schools or school networks founded upon a psychological theory. Instead, researchers and research institutes offer curricular and pedagogical resources that schools (depending on their mission and goals) elect to integrate into their day-to-day activities.
The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, housed at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, is an outstanding example of a social science research institute loosely allied with the traditional approach. Founded in 2012 by Dr. James Arthur, O.B.E., a distinguished K–12 teacher and education professor, the Jubilee Centre adopts a “Neo-Aristotelian” framework, that is, it takes its starting point from Aristotle’s arguments that human flourishing depends upon the exercise of virtue, that virtues entail not just thoughts, but actions, that virtues arise from the careful cultivation of specific habits, and so on.
Inspired by the devastating turn away from character described earlier in this book, the Jubilee Centre seeks to expand character education across the board, first and foremost in elementary and secondary schools, but also in universities and in the professions. While the Jubilee Centre takes seriously its philosophical underpinnings, it is not beholden to them. It is interdisciplinary and also gives great emphasis to social science research, especially in psychology. Thus, it seeks to show, by conducting and advancing social science research, on which points Aristotle’s views seem to be accurate or not; it critiques Aristotle’s views (for example, on women) and expands on his teaching (for example, exploring compassion as a virtue even though Aristotle did not consider it one); and, above all, it develops detailed curricular and pedagogical materials for schools in the 21st century. The division of the virtues (performance, intellectual, moral, and civic) used in the next section is drawn from Jubilee’s character education framework.
The Jubilee Centre works with thousands of schools in the United Kingdom and around the world, including in the U.S. The Jubilee approach emphasizes the integration of virtue education throughout the life of the school, offering advice on how to include it in virtually every grade and subject, from literature to religious studies to geography. Their approach starts with building virtue literacy and expands into the consideration of real-world dilemmas, relevant to students’ lives (for example, whether to tell a lie to spare someone’s feelings). In evaluating any dilemma, students are invited to consider how virtues can come into conflict (for example, honesty versus compassion), to understand how their own emotions and the emotions of others come into play, and to analyze the possible consequences of any given action for all those involved. Jubilee recommends a very explicit approach to virtue education, including school signage that reminds students of the virtues, assemblies dedicated to discussing virtues, and virtue-based extracurricular and community outreach programs. Although the Jubilee Centre works with many schools, it does not manage a school network.
By contrast, the Positivity Project (P2), started in 2015 by Jeff Bryan and Mike Erwin, has built a network of over 550 partner schools in 23 states serving over 300,000 students. P2 is based upon and takes its name from positive psychology and positive education, an area of psychological research launched by Professors Martin Seligman (University of Pennsylvania) and Christopher Peterson (University of Michigan). In the early 2000s, Seligman (President of the American Psychological Association) urged his fellow psychologists to move beyond a focus on psychological pathology and instead ask the questions: What accounts for psychological health and wellbeing? What are the character strengths necessary for human flourishing? Empirical research over the next decade, undertaken with colleague Peterson, helped him to develop a framework of characteristics that are similar to the traditional articulation of cardinal and theological virtues. Military veterans Bryan and Erwin have attempted to implement the fruits of this teaching in P2 elementary schools. Their framework, sometimes referred to as “values in action” or VIA, identifies 24 character strengths, divided into six categories of wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence (originally developed by Seligman and Peterson). The work of Angela Duckworth (Seligman’s Ph.D. student) on grit and her organization Character Lab is in many ways an extension of Seligman’s and Peterson’s work and it too has had a pronounced influence on P2.
P2 offers professional development training and curricular resources for teachers as well as a variety of additional resources for families. Its educational programs provide short 15-minute lessons to be offered daily. One lesson paradigm begins by defining a virtue, offering an aphorism, and then showing a short video of an outstanding individual, often a young person, whose actions exemplify that virtue. Afterwards, the lesson offers questions for the class, asking them to consider how the individual demonstrated the virtue in question, what their motivation and emotional state was, and so on.
It is fair to say that the “values in action” framework does not attempt to answer the three questions above. However, as we saw earlier, not answering such questions can entail risks. For example, because the language of values is associated with a relativist understanding—everyone has different values, we can choose our own values, and so on—to speak of virtues in terms of values can bring in assumptions that are problematic for character education. As we shall see later, there are other concerns that emerge when emphasizing positive traits (such as resilience, teamwork, grit, and leadership) without an explicit intellectual, moral, or civic virtue dimension. And psychological approaches can still be marked by the assumptions of behaviorism and operant conditioning, namely, that human beings can be treated simply as systems of input and output, such that character education becomes no different than training a horse to accept a rider’s instruction. The only question becomes about how to force a change of behavior by whatever means seem to work. From both a traditional and a progressive standpoint, such an approach disrespects human freedom.
Finally, let us consider a social science approach that is loosely aligned with the progressive outlook: Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), which argues that certain social-emotional skills, such as regulating one’s own emotions, setting personal goals, and managing interpersonal relationships, are as important as, and should be taught alongside, academic subjects. SEL advocates trace their roots to the work of James Comer at the Yale School of Medicine’s Child Study Center in the late 1960s. However, the term “social and emotional learning” and the main sponsoring organization, the Collaborative to Advance Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), date from the mid-1990s and gained steam with the publication of Daniel Goleman’s key work, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ (2005). By the early 2000s, the multi-pronged movement had gained national traction.
It is difficult to assess the full extent of SEL’s adoption, except to note that it has become highly ubiquitous, having influenced thousands of schools and likely millions of students. SEL is the cornerstone of many educational organizations (such Comer’s own Comer School Development Program at Yale, the aforementioned CASEL, the Social-Emotional Learning Lab at Rutgers University, and the Committee for Children, among many others), and there are many schools dedicated to character education that integrate elements of SEL on their own (including those associated with P2 and KIPP). Just as legislation passed during the Clinton and Bush administrations called for inclusion of character education in elementary schools and provided grants to that end, legislation in the Obama years (2008–2016) called for inclusion of SEL. HR 2437 (the Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Act, 2011) urged the adoption of SEL in schools and included grants for SEL teacher training. The 2018 Aspen Declaration recognized it as a key pillar for excellence.
Though SEL is a mainstay of educational institutions the world over, Comer originally undertook his work for the purposes of addressing low academic outcomes among African American students from low-income neighborhoods at two schools in New Haven, Connecticut. Not surprisingly, working in the late 1960s, his framework emphasized not virtues, but skills and “competencies.” His focus was on how a student develops the ability to recognize and manage their emotions, appreciate the perspectives of others, develop positive relationships with others, and set positive goals. Serving the underserved, perspective taking, and empathy, though not unique to the progressive approach, are key priorities of that approach. The two schools that Comer originally sought to help demonstrated a marked increase in academic outcomes and decrease in disciplinary problems by the 1980s, and Goleman’s 1995 publication of Emotional Intelligence spurred dedicated work from such institutions as CASEL.
SEL strategies include establishing a safe and caring environment for students, for example, by greeting them in a friendly way as they enter the room and having them gather together to discuss their emotions and how to regulate them, free from criticism or judgment. SEL strategies also include asking students to role play various situations to understand the perspectives of others, including emotionally fraught situations. The latter can give students the opportunity to develop habits of managing emotions and restoring damaged relationships with others under easier circumstances, but which may nevertheless prove useful when they encounter such fraught situations in the real world. In order to end sessions on a high note, educators may ask students to complete sentences such as “I am curious about…” or “I want to learn more about…” to increase self-understanding in a way that encourages learning.
By the 2010s, research was demonstrating significant improvements across the board in students’ empathy, decision-making, and conflict resolution skills. Skeptics of the movement suggested that these gains might be coming at the expense of academic programs, and that metrics chosen were anecdotal and “squishy,” rather than substantial. But they also concede that what began as a movement to create a safe school climate and ensure fruitful collaboration among learners, has the potential to advance learning while cultivating character and civility.
Progressive The progressive approach to education begins, by and large, with the early 20th century work of pioneering philosopher and psychologist, John Dewey. Dewey’s work is complicated, though. He disavowed certain trends in progressivism and advocated on behalf of views accepted by all educators of character, traditional and progressive alike, such as that education is more about forming the person than pursuing a career. A careful consideration of Dewey would take us too far afield, but as we consider controversies in K–12 education, it may help, however briefly, to appreciate that many of his key tenets are accepted by educators both traditional and progressive.
Progressive approaches tend to emphasize the importance of transforming educational and social structures, which takes for granted that these structures are deficient. These approaches therefore place a strong emphasis on the student learning to criticize their society, past and present, thinking through policies that will address those criticisms, and then engaging in activism to advance those policies. Contemporary criticisms typically focus on inequalities, especially when they concern prejudices based on skin color, sex, sexual orientation, and so on. These concerns are often collectively grouped under the expression “social justice” and, in school contexts, “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” (DEI). Occasionally, the progressive approach focused on other issues, such as protecting the environment.
Progressive approaches need not necessarily be in tension with other approaches. For example, psychological research can help to explain the causes and effects of prejudice and traditional reflection upon justice can help us to understand why prejudice is wrong, and the need to combat it. However, because progressive approaches emphasize criticism, they are often in tension with approaches that honor the past or celebrate various aspects of the status quo.
Indeed, progressive approaches sometimes ground themselves in critiques of the traditional approach. For example, where the traditional approach may emphasize the importance of pursuing absolute, objective truth, progressive approaches may emphasize that truth is socially constructed and that meaning can be created by individuals, which leads to a concern with learning styles unique to each student. Where the traditional approach emphasizes a canonical set of Great Works, the progressive emphasizes how such works are modest in scope, unrepresentative, embody the prejudices of their time, and encourage ongoing oppression. The progressive offers instead more contemporary works representing the voices of oppressed groups. And, as we saw before, where the traditional approach may insist upon a dress code, the progressive approach may encourage students to dress in whatever way makes them feel comfortable or that expresses their individual or group identity. On a pedagogical level, where the traditional approach may be more comfortable with direct instruction and teacher-guided Socratic seminars, the progressive approach may emphasize ways to “flip the classroom,” that is, to “empower” students to drive their own learning experiences.
Moreover, because progressive approaches wish to anticipate and align themselves with what advocates perceive as social progress, these approaches are not static. Even now, certain progressive approaches are abandoning the “old school” concern with individuals holding prejudicial opinions of others and speak instead of “systemic racism,” which implicates all white people as oppressors regardless of whether they believe themselves to hold any prejudicial opinions of others or not. The fact that white people may not consider themselves oppressors invites reflection upon “white privilege,” which includes the many advantages a person may enjoy by virtue of being white skinned as well as the ways that these advantages entail corresponding disadvantages for those who are not white.
The shift from individual responsibility to group (or racial) responsibility is not without a logic of its own, though: Even if progressive approaches often focus on individual learning, the concern with oppressed groups suggests that individuals have group identities. If one goal of education is to liberate oppressed groups, that suggests that the group may take some priority over the individual. But these are merely suggestions and one cannot assume that any progressive educator necessarily lands one way or another on these issues.
On this basis, we may see how progressive approaches answer the three questions mentioned above. These approaches also take for granted that human beings are rational and free. However, progressives tend to value freedom over reason, and consider rational arguments something that a student is free to explore, choose, or create. Moreover, if reason is suspect, the motivation to help others will need a different source, namely, emotions like empathy. Progressive educators place a strong emphasis on self-creation and self-expression, unhindered by external, especially traditional influences, and attended by an ethics of care. More political aims will focus on the liberation of oneself and others from systems of oppression. By this account, one’s place in the world is either oppressor or oppressed, but one should always strive to fight for liberation.
Because progressive approaches are in greater or lesser tension with traditional approaches, and because traditional approaches often explicitly uphold character education, it is natural for both traditional and progressive educators to assume that progressive approaches are not a form of character education. This would be misleading. Even if a school leader or teacher would deny that they aim to teach one of the traditional cardinal virtues (such as prudence, courage, temperance, and justice), whenever they speak of inspiring curiosity, fostering self-expression, creating a community of care, or liberating the oppressed, that person is speaking of what they consider worthwhile qualities or excellent activities that conduce to flourishing, in other words, of virtues. However, it is important to note disagreements about the meaning of virtues and about how those virtues should be taught.
Progressive approaches are very common in K–12 public schools, but they often appear to greater or lesser extents in public charter and independent schools. For example, the Wheeler School, a PreK–12 independent school in Providence, Rhode Island, employs many of the SEL strategies and expresses commitment to all of the progressive understandings and goals mentioned earlier. It has a DEI office that conducts professional development and reviews school activities across the board to ensure that they respect, include, and celebrate minority groups. Also, out of explicit concern for honoring the future-oriented aspect of progressive approaches, Wheeler’s leadership offers resources and has established an Equity Task Force to advance anti-racist policies, including workshops on “white privilege,” comprehensive reviews of teaching materials and practices, and student activism on behalf of racial injustice. Wheeler points parents, teachers, and students to resources offered by Black Lives Matter (BLM).
BLM emerged from anguish over the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2013 and now seeks to address a variety of race-related issues. It is important to remember, though, that BLM does not have a top-down leadership structure and various organizations across the country have adopted the BLM name. Though not a “character education” initiative per se, it has had a profound effect on character education in many schools. BLM’s K–12 resources are being used across the country, though there is no accurate data at this time on where and to what degree. Its early childhood resources offer teachers a variety of workbooks and activities, such as photos, coloring books, and stories about outstanding contributors to fighting racial injustice as well as activities quizzing students on their retention of what they have learned. Though these materials feature examples of people from a variety of backgrounds who supported the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. and asserts that all lives matter, not just Black lives, these materials also controversially include background information for teachers that suggest that white children are uniquely and inherently racist from as early as five years old.
Of course, to oppose all forms of racism and prejudice is a key purpose of both intellectual and moral education because prejudice, by definition, means to render a judgment without taking the time to investigate the issue properly. Thus, prejudice is not only opposed to the truth, but when it involves our views of others, it can lead us to act unjustly.
That said, making race a foundation for education is problematic. Racial categories—such as “Black” or “African American,” “Hispanic” or “Latinx,” “Asian,” “Native American,” and “white”—are sufficiently common in the media and as demographic categories in the social sciences that we might think of them as objective or value neutral. In truth, they are not. If we wish to describe someone’s appearance, we should look to skin color, eye color, hair color, and so on, not to race. If we wish to describe the ethnic or national origins of someone’s ancestors, we should name the country. If we wish to know about someone’s culture, we should ask culturally-relevant questions. Of course, some people may explicitly and even proudly embrace a group identity historically considered racial. The self-identified group may be quite real, but embracing that group identity does not make race itself real. Many people may not accept the racial label applied to them or consider race by itself a meaningful description of who they are, what they believe, or what they do, even if it may describe how they are perceived by others. Without any more meaningful content, perceiving someone first and foremost according to race, even if it is intended to combat prejudice, risks becoming prejudicial itself. To be sure, wherever the injustice of racism persists, it is important to recognize that people may think in terms of racial categories, but to treat those categories as therefore real and to make them a foundation for education research or practice is a problematic next step.
These are highly contentious topics. Leaders at schools like Wheeler and elsewhere stress the importance of a careful, balanced approach to them.
The Core Virtues Program and Contemporary Approaches
Where does the Core Virtues program fit in these various approaches and categories? The Core Virtues approach draws most heavily and overtly from the traditional approach, turning to Plato, Aristotle, and the Founders, among many others, for its understanding of the human person, the place of the person in the world, and the aim of education. Even though the Core Virtues approach does not embrace all the elements of the psychological approach, it is worth noting the strong influence of William Kilpatrick and Thomas Lickona, both trained psychologists. Before “positive psychology” emerged on the national scene, both scholars emphasized cultivating in the minds and hearts of young students love of the good and moral imagination. Since 1992, the ongoing work of Core Virtues aligns well with many initiatives in positive psychology. And many Core Virtues elements, such as building virtue literacy and giving virtuous exemplars, are cornerstones of the Jubilee Centre’s approach. Because Core Virtues has focused principally on moral understanding and inspiration—knowledge of the good and love of the good—it is a potential springboard for schools that adopt SEL strategies, which often work toward habit formation.
While Core Virtues does not endorse a value-neutral approach, it accepts some tenets of the progressive approach insofar as Core Virtues encourages warranted critical reflection on the past and features contemporary works of excellence alongside traditional works. The author of Core Virtues, Mary Beth Klee holds a Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization from Brandeis University. Her studies and scholarship in history inform her understanding of the American experiment—its excellence as well as its shortcomings. Hence, Core Virtues literary recommendations and monthly heroes showcase exemplars of excellence from all walks of life, all racial and social backgrounds, and innumerable national, ethnic and religious origins. Because the program seeks to cultivate civic virtue, it features not just the Founders and historic titans of liberty, but more contemporary civil rights heroes and advocates for social justice as well.
That Core Virtues focuses on K–6 is important, as well. Both ancient philosophers and contemporary researchers agree that character education is more important during early childhood than at any other time. Several of the character education programs we’ve considered focus more on secondary than elementary education. While character education is worth pursuing at any time in life, the older the student is, the more remedial that education becomes.
And, finally, it should also be clear that Core Virtues seeks to advance as many concrete virtues (but not “values”) as possible, encompassing all four kinds mentioned thus far in its cycle of virtues: respect, responsibility, diligence, gratitude, generosity, courage, honesty, justice, compassion, forgiveness, hope, heroism, self-control, self-discipline, wonder, charity, love of country, faithfulness, graciousness, courtesy, joy, learning from others, perseverance, stewardship, service, loyalty, mercy, gentleness, humility, and, finally wisdom and integrity. The last two virtues in particular stand out as a means of drawing the entire character education endeavor into a cohesive whole.
All character education initiatives, from the time of Plato to the American founding to the last thirty years, have aimed at equipping students not simply with knowledge but with the habits of heart and mind that conduce to human flourishing. Many current character initiatives are quite elaborate, require extensive teacher training, and some critics worry that their time-consuming implementation threatens academic rigor. The Core Virtues approach, as explained in other chapters in this volume and in use in many schools for decades, is distinguished for its simplicity of premise and ease of execution. It has managed to appeal to consensus virtues and avoids bright lines of polarization. Schools and parents who endorse traditional, social science-based, and/or progressive approaches to excellence will find an invaluable ally in this program.
Footnotes  As noted earlier, C. S. Lewis is highly respected by certain advocates of Western civilization and he offers an excellent example of Western openness to other civilizations in The Abolition of Man (New York: HarperOne, 2000). There, the Christian apologist Lewis describes traditional morality in terms of Confucius’s account of the Tao. In the appendix, Lewis helpfully shows concrete correspondences between the Jewish, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Christian, Babylonian, Chinese, and Hindu traditions, among others. At the same time, Lewis expresses traditional openness insofar as he questions whether words like “civilization” can or should be used as though they describe settled systems of conventional morality as opposed to organic accounts in dialogue with one another that nevertheless convey certain underlying, enduring principles of moral conduct across cultures and historical ages.
 Julia Annas, Darcia Narvaez, and Nancy E. Snow, eds., Developing the Virtues: Integrating Perspectives (Oxford: Oxford University, 2016); Larry P. Nucci and Darcia Narvaez, eds., Handbook of Moral and Character Education (New York: Routledge, 2008); Christopher Peterson and Martin E. P. Seligman, Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification (Oxford: Oxford University, 2004); and Martin E. P. Seligman, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Webb-being (New York: Free Press, 2011).
 For progressives, reason is suspect based on a variety of consideration. One such consideration concerns historical arguments that certain groups, such as women or African Americans, were naturally less rational and therefore less deserving of certain privileges of citizenship, such as the vote. Combined with the claim (often endorsed by progressives) that there is no enduring objective truth, all reason and logic as such becomes suspect, since, in principle, logical arguments seek to arrive at objectively true conclusions, but if there is no objective truth, then reason and logic can only offer personal, subjective opinions asserted by one person or group to be imposed upon another.
 A good example is the work of Nel Noddings. See her Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education (Berkeley: University of California, 1989) for a primer on the ethics of care and Happiness and Education (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) for a critique of certain traditional character education approaches as paternalistic and élitist.
 This is an immense topic, but a few suggestions for interested readers: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Andrew S. Curran, “Inventing the Science of Race,” The New York Review of Books, Dec. 16, 2021, https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2021/12/16/inventing-the-science-of-race/; the entries “Race,” “Race, Comparative Perspectives,” and “Race, Social Construction of” in the Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Society, ed. Richard T. Schaefer (Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, 2008); Michael Bamshad and Steve E. Olson, “Does Race Exist?”, Scientific American 289, no. 6 (2003): 78–85 (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/does-race-exist/); and Ibram X. Kendi, How To Be an Antiracist (New York: Random House, 2019), ch. 3. Kendi grants that race is not real on a biological level, but considers it real insofar as power differences between white people and Black people are real. Power differences and injustice are certainly real, but it’s unclear that their connection to racial prejudice makes race real.
 See Peter C. Myers, “Black Lives Matter Comes to the Classroom,” accessed Dec. 15, 2021, https://www.city-journal.org/black-lives-matter-in-the-classroom, for a critique of the materials cited in ftn. 46. Advocates of BLM curriculum may question whether Myers has given a balanced account of the issues, but he nonetheless gives an accurate account of the content of the curriculum, including its expansive understanding of equality as well as its racial elements.
 See Arthur et al., Teaching Character, ch. 3.
 See Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, bk. 6. For Aristotle, at the intersection of wisdom and integrity is prudence. Prudence (choosing the right means to a good end) is the virtue by which we take possession of ourselves and accomplish our goals, by which we understand the meaning and import of our actions, and by which we cultivate, guide, and exercise all our virtues, to the benefit of ourselves and our community. Thus, prudence has key features in common with intellectual, moral, civic and performance virtues. Interesting though this may be as a point of moral philosophy, the way that we cultivate it concretely is by cultivating all the virtues that we’ve explored thus far. See also Daniel Mark Nelson, The Priority of Prudence (Pennsylvania State University, 1992). Drawing from the work of St. Thomas Aquinas, himself heavily influenced by Aristotle, Nelson argues for the importance of emphasizing prudence to revitalize contemporary discussions of morality.