ON EMULATION: ILLUMINATING A NEO-ARISTOTELIAN APPROACH TO CHARACTER EDUCATION THROUGH ROLE MODELLING
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Plagued by a climate emergency, unsustainable consumerism, systemic racism, sexism, humanitarian disasters, rising inequality, populism and genocides, modern society is facing a crisis of moral character. In an effort to cultivate a more hopeful future, and enhance both personal and societal flourishing, a form of moral education known as character education has gained prominence. This paper defends an explicitly neo-Aristotelian approach to character education, namely one which seeks to morally transform pupils’ characters by imbuing them with substantive ethical ideals in the form of virtues. In advancing this position, I reject the situationist objection that character is illusory by using findings in experimental psychology to support the existence of mixed character traits. Evidence suggests few people are fully virtuous or vicious, but a combination of both. I argue that the method of moral role modelling by teachers, involving admiration and subsequent emulation by pupils, offers particular promise for facilitating virtuous character development, and consider how this strategy can best be actualised in schools. I propose that role modelling by senior leadership ought also to be a required component of character education if role modelling is to be effective, and suggest two arguments to support this claim. As a top-down approach to virtue cultivation, role modelling by senior leadership thus offers a new perspective with which to advance the central aim of neo-Aristotelian character education: teaching children how to be good people.