Character is the mental and ethical qualities that define a person. These mental and ethical qualities determine the kind of life a person leads, the type of relationships they sustain, the kind of citizen and worker they become, and their future success.

Good character is a pattern of behavior, thoughts, and feelings based on virtues such as integrity, self-control, respect, empathy, perseverance, positive attitude, humility, wisdom, and citizenship. It is evidenced by virtuous actions in both the moral and performance areas of one’s life. Experts have divided character education into two parts – “performance character” (maximizing one’s performance in every area of his or her life) and “moral character” (always choosing to do the right, honest and ethical thing).



  • Universally accepted standards of conduct

  • Universally accepted rules of doing right and avoiding wrong


    • “Treat others as you would want them treat you” The Golden Rule

    • “All men are created equal” The Declaration of Independence

    • “Thou shalt not lie, cheat, or steal” The Ten Commandments

    • “Do no harm” Hippocratic Oath

    • “In all things, charity” Richard Baxter



  • Morality (morals) comes form the Latin word "mos," meaning "custom."

  • A means for evaluating human conduct.

  • A person's decision to choose right and avoid wrong. 

  • EXAMPLE: “I choose not to cheat on the exam.” 



  • Ethics comes from the Greek word "ethos," meaning "character."

  • The study of a person's moral choices of right and wrong.

  • Note: The ethics of a group may sometimes conflict with an individual’s moral choice.

  • EXAMPLE: John is a lawyer who is ethically required to defend his client (legal ethics are group choices among lawyers) even though he knows his client is guilty (individual moral dilemma).


  • Very similar, yet morals usually refer to individuals, while ethics usually refer to a group.

  • Morals involve an individual's decisions, whereas ethics is a study of right and wrong. 


  • Adhering to a moral code of honesty, courage, strength, responsibility and uprightness in everything you do.

  • Being true to your word.

  • EXAMPLE: “A person lives a life of integrity by having the courage to be honest, truthful, and to keep his promises.”


Although closely related:

  • Principles = standards of conduct

  • Morality = conforming to those standards of conduct

  • Integrity = the quality of always living those standards



  • The admirable trait or quality of doing good and avoiding wrong that has become a habit

  • Qualities of moral and performance excellence considered to be good


  • A quality or standard deemed desirable by an individual, group, or a society

  • Values, unlike virtues, are not habits or always acts of moral good

  • Virtues are values but many values are not virtues

  • EXAMPLE: “John Doe values having many material possessions, having many girlfriends, and being the toughest man on his block.”


  • The development of fundamental skills for life, including how to relate with oneself, others and relationships, and work effectively.

  • An approach to learning that helps a student become a socially and emotionally skilled person.

  • Comprehensive character development programs include SEL.


Provides a review of important developments in character education in schools over thousands of years, with an emphasis on the U.S. education system from the 1960's through today. 

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