In December 2016 Prof. Mark Pike and Dr Peter Hart represented the Narnian virtues team at the AME conference, hosted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Prof Mark Pike presented on the parental involvement in the project. He described how we are engaging with parents through seminars and home activities that students take the lead on. He also described some of our initial findings from interviews with parents and carers. While the level of influence parents have over the character of teenagers is currently an aspect of some debate in academia, this project is empirically testing the hypothesis that the students who have greater parental help with developing their character will show greater change in their knowledge and application of the virtues. At the moment, our initial reflections on the data collected suggest that parents certainly believe they are very important to the student’s character development, and many have commented that this curriculum has aided in increasing the depth of conversations parents are able to engage in with their children.
At the same session, Dr Peter Hart began a more speculative philosophical piece asking whether home life could be considered a MacIntyrian practice (a regular human activity, rooted in our social nature, that offers opportunity to develop the virtues and leads towards human flourishing) and began to expound on whether character education is itself a practice, or better understood as an ‘internal good’ to the practice of teaching. In our pilot study we recognised that the home was a particularly important site for ethical reflection.
The keynotes focussed on Civic Engagement, against the backdrop of the US presidential elections, with a huge range of papers on character and moral education from myriad perspectives. We found much common ground with other academics attempting to measure virtue quantitatively and evaluate curricula and character education programmes, and drew on wisdom from the latest developments in the psychology of virtues and ethical decision making.