"Character Matters"
Thomas Lickona
NY, Simon and Shuster, 2004
310 pp.


The Green Book Lives



Sixty years ago, C.S. Lewis took on an otherwise unassuming English Grammar text, which he called "The Green Book," to protect its authors. He demonstrated that, while purporting to teach English, the authors instead filled it with their own amoral philosophy, which amounted to, the values of any suburban community in peacetime. Such things as "peace is more important than honor, and can be achieved by reading newspapers and jeering at colonels."

That prophetic little book correctly depicted the downward arc our civilization has taken in the intervening decades. Lewis used pseudonyms for the book and its authors because he thought them largely unaware of both the damage they had done, and the dire consequences that might (and actually did) ensue.

I couldn't help wondering what Lewis would have had to say about Thomas Lickona's book, Character Matters. "The Green Book's" authors really believed they were teaching English. By contrast, Lickona thinks he's teaching "character."  Lickona has a list of ten virtues, four of which came from the ancient Greeks. The other six seem to have come from Lickona himself. Few would quarrel with the rest of his list, with the possible exception of "a positive attitude," and "hard work." At first, these two might seem a little out of place, a little lightweight. But in the end, it doesn't matter. In Lickona's hands, all the virtues are lightweight.

Some of the books mentioned in this review: