How did character education become so popular? What does its curriculum look like? And what is its educational impact? Lee Jerome and Ben Kisby answer these and other questions in a bold and brilliant book. Focusing on the character education movement in Britain, they dissect its theoretical foundation, explain its ascendancy, analyze its curricula, and examine its results. The authors construct a compelling argument that character education clashes with education for democracy.

Character education claims to be a panacea for improving individual children’s life chances as well as an array of societal problems. But with its deeply flawed ideology, curricula, and research, it is not just a well-funded, government-supported “land grab” in the field of education. It also is dangerous. Character education hearkens back to the Victorian era’s use of moralistic lessons, imbued with conservative Christian values and traditional masculinity, to address social ills such as poverty. But it also perpetuates a deficit model, in which victims are blamed for problems that represent systemic and structural injustices, and lets government off the hook for addressing problems. The authors offer a better alternative—democratic citizenship education that develops political literacy and agency.