Maryland launches 'character education' School program aims to instill positive values


Guided by the principle that students need instruction of the heart as well as the head, state officials yesterday formally launched a program of "character education" for public schools.

The program, funded by a federal grant of nearly $1 million, is designed to help teachers and other school employees instill good values in students.

"We're adding two new 'Rs' to 'reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic' -- responsibility and respect," said Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who led the effort to develop the program.

State officials will provide the federal money over the next four years to schools in five jurisdictions -- Baltimore, Prince George's, Frederick and Calvert counties, and Baltimore City.

The program does not envision a statewide curriculum in values. Rather, officials at each school will work with parents, teachers and others to craft their character education program.

"We're trying to determine what are the best practices occurring around the state," Townsend said at a ceremony launching the program at Sandalwood Elementary School in Essex.

With help from a grant from the Abell Foundation, the state Department of Education has hired staff to oversee the efforts.

State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick stressed that the program is not intended to usurp parents' moral authority.

"I want to be very, very clear," Grasmick said. "This is not a negation of the important role of parents."

One parent who attended the program yesterday seemed to have doubts about the need for a character education program.

"I think I speak for a lot of people -- it seems to me this was already going on in the school," the man told Townsend and other officials during a question-and-answer period.

Pub Date: 11/08/96

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