The Character Education Manifesto

Character Education Manifesto

Creator: Kevin Ryan, Karen E Bohlin and Judith O Thayer wrote the Character Education Manifesto in February 1996.

Purpose: “Distressed by the increasing rates of violence, adolescent suicide, premature sexual activity, and a host of other pathological and social ills assaulting American youth, we propose that schools and teachers reassert their responsibility as educators of character. Schools cannot, however, assume this responsibility alone; families, neighborhoods and faith communities must share in this task together. We maintain that authentic educational reform in this nation begins with our response to the call for character. True character education is the hinge upon which academic excellence, personal achievement, and true citizenship depend. It calls forth the very best from our students, faculty, staff and parents.”

The Character Education Manifesto (edited)

Principle 1: Education is an Inescapable Moral Enterprise
A continuous and conscious effort to guide students to know and pursue what is good and what is worthwhile.

Principle 2: Parents
We strongly affirm parents as the primary moral educators of their children and believe schools should build a partnership with the home.

Principle 3: Virtue
Character education is about developing virtues — good habits and dispositions which lead students to responsible and mature adulthood.

Principle 4: Teachers, Principals, Staff
The teacher and the school principal are central to this enterprise and must be educated, selected, and encouraged with this mission in mind.

Principle 5: Community
Character education is not a single course, a quick-fix program, or a slogan posted on the wall; it is an integral part of school life.

Principle 6: Curriculum
The human community has a reservoir of moral wisdom, much of which exists in our great stories, works of art, literature, history, and biography.

Principle 7: Students
Finally, young people need to realize that forging their own characters is an essential and demanding life task.


Character education is not merely an educational trend or the school’s latest fad; it is a fundamental dimension of good teaching, an abiding respect for the intellect and spirit of the individual. We need to re-engage the hearts, minds, and hands of our children in forming their own characters, helping them “to know the good, love the good, and do the good.” That done, we will truly be a nation of character, securing “liberty and justice for all.”



Full Manifesto: CAEC, Boston University – School of Education

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