Research-Based Fundamentals of the Effective Promotion of Character Development in Schools

Authored by: Marvin W. Berkowitz , Melinda C. Bier

Handbook of Moral and Character Education

Print publication date:  March  2014
Online publication date:  April  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415532334
eBook ISBN: 9780203114896
Adobe ISBN: 9781136293122


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The intentional promotion of positive development in youth is an age-old project, probably a human enterprise since the earliest forms of human community. No society can endure if it does not take seriously the fundamental project of socializing subsequent generations. Translation of two Sumerian tablets give us evidence that this inclination was evident over 4,000 years ago:

My son, let me give you instructions. Pay attention to them! Do not beat a farmer's son, or he will break your irrigation canal.… When you are drunk, do not judge.… Do not break into a house.… Do not speak with a girl when you are married, the [likelihood of] slander is strong.… Do not allow your sheep to graze in untested grazing grounds.… Submit to strength. Bow down to the mighty man.

(A Sumerian Father Gives Advice to his Son, about 2300 BCE)

Why do you idle about? Go to school, recite your assignment, open your schoolbag, write your tablet, let your “big brother” write your new tablet for you. Be humble and show fear before your apprentice teacher. When you show terror, he will like you.… Never in my life did I make you carry reeds to the canebrake. I never said to you “Follow my caravans.” I never sent you to work as a laborer. “Go, work and support me,” I never in my life said that to you. Others like you support their parents by working.… Compared to them you are not a man at all. Night and day you waste in pleasures.… Among all craftsmen that live in the land, no work is more difficult than that of a scribe. [But] it is in accordance with the fate decreed by [the god] Enlil that a man should follow his father's work.

(A Sumerian Father Wants His Teen-Ager To Be A Scribe, about 2000 BCE)

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