Extension’s Mission and Character Development

The mission of University of Illinois Extension is “to enable people to improve their lives and communities through learning partnerships that put knowledge to work.” Parents, teachers, volunteers, business owners, civic leaders, and others who work with and on behalf of young people, families, and communities can become involved in character education and promote ethical decisions in all facets of the lives of children and adults. University of Illinois Extension offers training and resources about character development across Illinois.

What Is Character Education?

Character education is about teaching people to make sound moral judgements. At its best, character education is integrated into every aspect of a person’s life – home, school, work and community. Author and professor, Dr. Thomas Lickona, describes character education’s goal as teaching people to "know the good, love the good (develop a conscience) and do the good." In many character education efforts, community members come to consensus about the virtues ("the good") they would like people in the community to possess. The Character Counts!sm Coalition, for instance, focuses on trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. What is most important, especially when teaching children, is that a community uses a common language.

What Character Education Is Not

Character education is not an add-on program nor a once a month lesson that works like a vaccination needing only a booster shot now and then. And it's not simply about obedience or fostering one person's or group of people’s definition of ethics or character.