The implied character curriculum in vocational and non-vocational English classes: Designing social futures for working class students and their teachers

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Journal of Research in Character Education






Information Age Publishing

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This study combines data from three case studies of teachers moving from their university teacher education programs into their first jobs, with data collected through observations and interviews totaling six observation cycles over the 2 years of data collection. The curricula for working class students that the three teachers taught represent a range of explicit to implicit attention to character education, with one teacher teaching a vocational English class that included specific character education modules, one teaching a vocational English class whose curriculum implied character education for job preparedness without including explicit modules, and one teaching nonvocational English whose curriculum focused solely on the domain's traditional tripod of language, literature, and writing. The data indicate that across these assignments, the teachers instructed their students in "broad dispositions," including having a "work ethic" and exhibiting "motivation for school work"; "respect" in a range of relationships, including respect for "authority figures," "cultural conventions," and "peers"; and "personal qualities,", including "self-discipline", "perseverance," and "time management." The study concludes with a consideration of the ways in which working class and vocational students are assumed to lack character as indicated by their disengagement with school, the ways in which character education is an implicit part of the education for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and the assumptions that drive the belief that the academic performance of students from poor and working-class homes and communities can be addressed through instruction in character traits grounded in the Protestant work ethic rather than a reconsideration of the curriculum with which they must engage.

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