This is an interesting announcement from the University of Birmingham.
The Professor in charge of this Templeton-funded project, James Arthur, says he wants to influence policy in this country, and is clearly being taken seriously already (he mention that DEMOS have expressed interest in his research).
Character education can be a very good thing - and there's much of interest to say about it (going all the way back to Aristotle, in fact - see below) - but whenever you see the phrase, approach with caution. In the United States, "Character Education" has been used as cover for the promotion of fairly conservative (usually conservatively religious) educational methods. It was part of the No Child Left Behind policy funded under George W. Bush.
Here's a chapter from my book "The War For Children's Minds" on character education which explain how some (certainly not all) of those who have promoted "character education" in the U.S. have had a rather illiberal agenda. Of course, research done at Birmingham may very well be squeaky clean and of real value.
(PS This article is an example of how "character education" tends to be set up in opposition to the kind of liberal approach I recommend in my book. If this is the direction "character education" takes in this country, we should all be very worried
This article on Character Education is interesting on how "character education" has developed in the US. Here is a quote:
Character education rests on three ideological legs: behaviorism, conservatism, and religion. Of these, the third raises the most delicate issues for a critic; it is here that the charge of ad hominem argument is most likely to be raised. So let us be clear: it is of no relevance that almost all of the leading proponents of character education are devout Catholics. But it is entirely relevant that, in the shadows of their writings, there lurks the assumption that only religion can serve as the foundation for good character. (William Bennett, for example, has flatly asserted that the difference between right and wrong cannot be taught "without reference to religion.") It is appropriate to consider the personal beliefs of these individuals if those beliefs are ensconced in the movement they have defined and directed. What they do on Sundays is their own business, but if they are trying to turn our public schools into Sunday schools, that becomes everybody's business.
Hopefully, turning British state-funded schools into Sunday schools won't be the recommendation of this particular research project.
Chapter of my book The War For Children's Minds below...