March 2017 Blog

Edward DeRoche

Three questions: Did you know that there are two types of character- moral character and performance character? Do you know why the two matter? Do you know what schools can do to foster moral and performance character?

I came across the idea of two types of character after reading Lickona and Davidson’s book, Smart & Good High Schools: Integrating Excellence and Ethics for Success in School, Work, and Beyond (, 2005). The authors write that performance character is the pathway to excellence and moral character is the pathway to ethical behavior.

Both are captured, according to the authors, in the “8 Strengths of Character: (1) Lifelong learner and critical thinker; (2) Diligent and capable performer; (3) Socially and emotionally skilled person; (4) Ethical thinker; (5) Respectful and responsible moral agent; (6) Self-disciplined person who pursues a healthy lifestyle; (7) Contributing community member and democratic citizen; and (8) Spiritual person engaged in crafting a life of noble purpose.

In 2007, an article appeared in Education Week, November 14, authored by Davidson, Lickona, and Khmelkov. 2007) in which they make the case that “students need performance character (initiative, self-discipline, perseverance, teamwork, and the like) to do their best academic work; (and) … moral character (respect, fairness, kindness, honesty, and so forth) to build the relationships that make for a positive learning environment.”

Several months ago, I came across a “position paper,” published in 2008, by the Character Education Partnership, now called “character. org.” Why I just found it is anyone’s guess.

The paper is found here and titled “Performance Values: Why They Matter and What Schools Can Do to Foster Their Development.” ( The paper describes the “role of work in a life of character.” The authors explore the answer to the question: “Where do we learn to care about the quality of our work and to develop skills to do it well?” Their answer: “To a large extent in school.”

They discuss the role of work, the idea that we need to expand our views of character; they examine the research and then conclude with ten practices that will “shape a school and peer- group culture.”

I like the view that moral and performance character are “mutually supportive.”

“The moral aspects, besides enabling us to treat each other with fairness, respect and care, ensure that we pursue our performance goals in ethical rather than unethical ways…. The performance aspects of our character…enable us to act on our moral values and make a positive difference in the world.”

The caveat! Dr. Thomas Lickona, Professor of Education, Emeritus and Director, Center for the 4th and 5th Rs at SUNY- Cortland is a developmental psychologist and educator who has spent more than four decades helping parents and schools foster good character in youth.

Dr. Lickona will be present on this topic at CERC’s summer conference on June 22, 2017 (

The title of his presentation is “Moral Character, Performance Character, and Social-Emotional Skills:

Why Kids Need All Three—and How to Foster Their Development.”


                         Can’t wait—I have questions!



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