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Character in Sport and Physical EducationDennis Docheff aa Department of Physical Education , United States Military Academy , West Point , NY ,10996Published online: 22 Feb 2013.
To cite this article: Dennis Docheff (1997) Character in Sport and Physical Education, Journal of Physical Education,Recreation & Dance, 68:9, 34-34, DOI: 10.1080/07303084.1997.10605026
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07303084.1997.10605026
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Character in Sport and PhysicalEducation
1\, person with character hasboth the knowledge to knowwhat is right and the cour-age to act on that knowledge. Char-acter connotes not only moral andethical excellence but also firmness,resolution, self-discipline, and judg-ment." (USMA, 1993)
The issue of character has becomeincreasingly more prevalent in societytoday. Stories abound about the mis-use of power in politics and business.Character has had its place in recentpolitical campaigns. People are alsoquestioning the ethics of professionalsports teams and players. People talkabout character issues all the time, yetit is something that people define inmany different ways.
What is character? How do we de-velop character?
The inherent value of sport par-ticipation and the development ofcharacter is frequently an issue.Whenever coaches and athletic ad-ministrators are questioned aboutexpenditures, invariably one of theanswers is that participation in thesport bestows tremendous valueupon the participants. The scenariogoes something like this:
The budget must be cut (again).
Programs are being trimmed or
axed altogether. Athletic administra-tors and coaches hold parent meet-
ings that boost their pro~'Tams,at-
tempting to keep their sports off the"program chopping block." The
questions arise ...what value is there
in sport? Why should we keep yourextracurricular sports teams and am-
putate portions of the music depart-ment? Without a doubt, before the
meeting is over, a supporter of the
sports program (a coach, parent, or
administrator) will stand up andmake the claim that, "Participation
in sport will build character."
Interestingly enough, this shortphrase, "Sports builds character," hasbeen overused and undersupportedthroughout the history ofathletics. Forsome reason people hear this phraseand readily accept the claim. Has any-one ever stood up in one of these meet-ings and responded to the phrase with,"Where's your proof? Show us the char-acter you are building."
People don't question the phrasebecause they really want to believe it.Our society really wants to believe thatsports do build character. After all,that's what they have been taught forsuch a long time, and that's what theyhave raised their children to believe.
However, we are now at a pointwhere people will question. They seeprofessional athletes hold out, de-manding more millions for their ser-vice, and wonder about the characterinvolved in this "give me more" ap-proach to sport. We also see athletes
acting outside the rules, often in sucha manner that would get them ar-rested if they were outside the athleticarena, and question the character de-velopment that is occurring. Athletesare exploited by coaches who know-ingly bend or break recruiting regula-tions and people wonder why theteam is being sanctioned and why theathletes are having to pay for thecoach's misdeed. Is character abyproduct of sport participation?What is this thing we call "character?"Character is the link that enablespeople of high ethical doctrines to actin accord with their beliefs. Amongcurrent curricular themes in educa-tion is the concept of learners beingable to "know and do." In keepingwith this idea, I propose the followingdefinition: Character is having the wis-dom to know what is right and havingthe courage to do what is light.
A close relationship exists betweensport and physical education. Theircontent encompasses much of thesame material. The purpose behindthe programs may differ, but the av-enue with which they provide thelearning experience to students canbe quite similar. Many of our desiredoutcomes in sport can also beachieved through physical education.
The purpose of this feature is to
Vol. 68 No.9' JOPERD Nov/Dec '997
support the goals and objectives ofteaching character education.
Some of the other character edu-cation programs are BuildingDecisionSkills by the Institute of Global Ethicswhich helps middle and high schoolstudents resolve the dilemmas ofethical living. Character Way devel-oped by the Ethics Resource Centeris a video-based program for first,third, and fifth graders that empha-sizes noncontroversial moral valuessuch as honesty, integrity, compas-sion, fairness, respect, and responsi-bility. The Community of Caring is a K-12 program based upon the five uni-versal values of caring, respect, re-sponsibility, trust, and family.
Interest in character education ona national level resulted in the for-mation of The Character EducationPartnership in 1993. Its mission is todevelop civic virtues and moral char-acter in our youth for a more com-passionate and responsible society(Character Education Partnership,1996). The Partnership maintains acomputerized database of charactereducation information and respondsto requests for information frommembers, the media, and the publicat large.
As an educational movement, char-acter education can become a way tohelp change the face ofeducation inthe schools of the future. Accordingto Leming (1993), "Charactereduca-tion must become an activity withclear community support, with re-sources provided for its implementa-tion, and with clear rewards for teach-ers that take its goals seriously and de-velop the necessary competencies."
ReferencesCharacter Education Partnership, Inc.
(1996). Character Education in U. S.Schools: The New Consensus: A Repon onDevelopments During 1993-1995.Alexandria, VA.
Dewey,J. (1934). A commonfaitk. New Ha-Yen, Cf: YaleUniversity Press
Dewey,J. (1964).Mypedagogic creed. In RD. Archambault (Ed.) ,JohnDewey on edu-cation: Selected writings. New York:Ran-domHouse.
Gailbraith, R E. (1977). An appraisal of twoapJJroachesfor training histury to applyKohlberg's theory ofmuraldeueloJmumt. Un-
Nov/Dec 1997 JOPERD Vol. 68 No.9
published doctoral dissertation,Carnegie Mellon University.
Goldbecker, S. (1976). Values teaching.Washington, DC: National EducationAssociation.
Golightly, T. (1926). Thepresent statusoftheteaching ofmoraliIy in thepublic schools.Nashville,1N: George Peabody Collegefor Teachers.
Hartshorne, H., & May,M. A (1928-1930).Studies in thenalulf ofcharacter: Volume 1,Studies in deceit; Volume 2, Studies in selfam-trol; Volume 3, Studies in mgrmization ofchamcter New York:Macmillan.
Katz, M. (1971). Class, burermCTlJlY, andschools: The illusionofeducational change inAmerica. New York:Praeger.
Kilpatrick, W. (1992). WIryJohnny can' tellright.frum wrong: MoraliQiteraly and thecaseforcharactereducatUm. New York:Simonand Schuster.
Kohlberg, L (1976). The cognitive develop-mental approach to moral education.V~ amapts, and techniques. Washing-ton, DC: National Education Association.
Leming,]. S. (1993). OuuactereducatUm:~sons.frum thepast, modelsforthefutlm.Camden, ME:The Institute for GlobalEthics.
Mulkey, YJ., Ed. (1993-1996). Ouuacteredu-cation curriculum: GradtsonetJrruugh nine.San Antonio, TX: Character EducationInstitute.
Raths, L, Harmin, M., & Simon, S. (1966).Values and teadIing. Columbus, OH:Charles E. Merrill.
Young Jay Mulkey is the president ofthe Character Education Institute,San Antonio, TX 78217.
Continued from page 34explore a variety of issues regardingwhere "character" fits into sport andphysical education. Leading profes-sionals from around the countryhave contributed to this series on"Character in Physical Educationand Sport." The feature begins witha historical overview of research oncharacter in education by Dr. JayMulkey of the Character EducationInstitute in San Antonio, Texas.Mulkey's discussion on character willspan the time from colonial Americato the present. Next, Dr. GloriaSolomon of Texas Christian Univer-sity discusses the influence of physi-cal education on character develop-
ment. Solomon renders evidencethat supports the contention thatphysical education is a powerfulloca-tion for character development.
In theJanuarylOPERD, Dr.George Sage, of the University ofNorthern Colorado, examines theimpact sport may have on characterdevelopment. Sage analyzes themotto "sports builds character" look-ing for evidence of favorable out-comes. Then, Dr. Sharon Stoll of theUniversity of Idaho and Dr.JenniferBeller of Eastem Michigan Univer-sity take a critical view of the assess-ment of character in physical educa-tion and sport, addressing whetheror not character is something we canmeasure.
This three-part series concludes inFebruary with articles by Dr. RussellGough, of Pepperdine Universityand Dr. Shirley Fisher of the Collegeof New Jersey. Gough provides read-ers with an avenue for self-reflectionand character development. He fur-nishes a practical strategy for charac-ter development in sport and physi-cal education. Fisher describes thedevelopment and implementation ofan existing character education pro-gram. She shares the process used tobring a comprehensive charactereducation program into the publicschools and provides suggestions forthe development of character in in-dividuals, spanning education fromkindergarten-aged students to highschool-aged students.
Again,the purpose ofthis feature isto examine the concept ofcharacter andthe impact that physicaleducation andsport mayhave on characterdevelop-ment. 'This feature brings the characterissue to question so that physicalandsport educators might look criticallyathow they maybe influencing the charac-ter development of those they teach.
ReferencesUnited States Military Academy. (1993).
West Point: 2002 and Beyond. WestPoint, NY:Author.
Dennis Docheff is an associate pro-fessor in the Department ofPhysicalEducation at the United States Mili-tary Academy, West Point, NY 10996.