Legislators have backed away from a plan that would have forced Iowa school districts to provide “character education” in the classroom. School officials objected, citing the cost, so the House Education Committee has decided to merely “encourage” character education rather than require it. Representative Phil Wise, a democrat from Keokuk, says schools want to do it, and in many cases already are in big and small distrticts.The Legislature’s idea of character education includes coursework that promotes trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. To accomplish that, the bill allows school districts to require some sort of community service before a high schooler can graduate. Representative Scott Raecker, a republican from Urbandale, admits the bill doesn’t break lots of new ground, but he hopes it encourages schools to adopt the components of character education in the classroom. He says it’s not about the young kids today, it’s about the society we will have down the road.Raecker’s full-time job outside the legislature is as executive director of the Institute for Character Development at Drake University. The “character education” bill must clear the full House and Senate, and get the Governor’s signature, before it becomes law.
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