Nowadays, because of the existing relativism, there is a deep moral crisis of values that are affecting different society dimensions (economic crisis); hence the need of insisting on education in values. As we know, according to its nature, man is a person composed by a sensitive and material body and a spiritual and rational soul. The way of showing of man through thought, word and deed in all and each of its activities is called personality.
Etymologically, the term character means sign or mark that is printed, painted or sculpted in something. It, applied to the personality, means the adherence to moral values that a person expresses consistently in its behavior. That is signal or recognizable mark of its moral worth as a human being. It is a quality of personality.
Character is not innate, it depends on heredity and environmental influences, and therefore also on education. First of all, character education is the acquisition of values or ideals of conduct consistent with the dignity of a person. An ideal or value is a worthy aspiration maintained as a guiding principle of action.
For example, we have the truth, goodness, honesty, tolerance, justice (fairness), prudence, temperance… The resources to acquire values and ideals are the teaching and the example. These must be adapted to the characteristics of each education stage. Good rules do much, but good models do even more. The primary sources of values are the imitation and emulation.
Character education is responsibility of the family that from the moment of birth must prepare a plan with the values for it. Likewise, it is responsibility of the society that should provide sources of example, and the school, hence the need that educational pact establish a minimum set of common values on which we can educate. We must remember that coexistence in society becomes difficult without values. These can be completed with other values such as religious or transcendental without opposing to the constitutional framework.
Secondly, it is the improvement of will or ability to act deliberately, of owning one’s actions. All teaching should be directed to the strengthening of will, to the reflection and deliberation, to the decision-making and to the enforcement of the same, trying to be persistent in order to act according to the values on which we intend to educate.
Thirdly, it is the formation of good habits. The man of character is the man of reason, willpower and temperance in all things. In order to set this purpose, it is necessary to establish strong and well organized habits which must result in correct ways of thinking and acting during all occasions of life in accordance with the values and ideals established. For that reason, it is essential that family, society and school provide opportunities to live and practice these values.
Finally, it is the establishment of emotional stability. Man is not pure intellect or pure will. Knowledge and action are painted by feelings and emotions, hence the need to attend simultaneously the affective education, the emotional intelligence education with the acquisition of skills that will help man to handle its emotions and passions properly. This, in turn, stimulates the intellect and motivates the desire.
Emotional stability implies emotional balance. It is the result of a happy and reasonable control of emotions, necessary for job and study. The use of will in controlling emotions is essential and this control constitutes self-control. Catholic morality can help for this, as manifested even some laicists. Payot, J. (1896) Education of the will. Madrid: Edmundo Capdeville& Victoriano Suarez.
Miguel Zapater. Education Inspector