The growing interest in character education stems largely from widely shared concerns among both educators and the public that ethical behavior in society at large and in our young people in particular is insufficiently guided by sound principles exercised with integrity. Citizenship education has gained prominence as political scientists, politicians, psychologists, and educators have become concerned about the decline of engagement by young people in the democratic political institutions of our communities and society, evident through such trends as lower voting rates, less identification with political parties, and lack of interest in political discourse.
History of the Center for Character and Citizenship
Thanks to the generosity of Sanford N. McDonnell and Teresa M. Fischer, UMSL was able to establish two endowed professorships (the Teresa M. Fischer Professor of Citizenship Education in 1994 and the Sanford N. McDonnell Professor of Character Education in 1998) with overlapping missions. When Marvin W. Berkowitz was hired to be the inaugural McDonnell Professor, interest in a formal collaboration with the Fischer Professor and the Citizenship Education Clearing House was kindled. Serendipitously, other UMSL professors had professional interests and expertise in related areas. In 2003, Berkowitz became founding co-editor of the Journal of Research in Character Education, now the Journal of Character Education, which is now housed fully at the CCC. When Wolfgang Althof was appointed the Fischer Professor in 2004 and took office in 2005, the collaboration began in earnest. The critical mass of expertise attracted other scholars to the College of Education at UMSL and to the CCC. Building upon this base, a proposal was submitted to the UMSL for the establishment of a formal Center focusing on character and citizenship education. The Center for Character and Citizenship was established September 2005.
The CCC was built upon a broad set of resources. The two endowed professorships brought both two internationally recognized scholars and the fiscal base of the two endowed funds. They also brought with them three core programs (see below): the Leadership Academy in Character Education; Kids Voting Missouri; CECH-Up (now renamed MY LOGO). As noted, numerous scholars with national and international reputations decided to come join the UMSL faculty because of the existence of the endowed professors and/or the CCC: Drs. Victor Battistich, Melinda Bier, Brenda Bredemeier , David Shields, Natalie Bolton, and Kyle Matsuba. This in turn led to the applications of doctoral students and visiting scholars from around the world (e.g., Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Kenya, Colombia, Switzerland, Germany) wishing to study at the CCC. Dr. Melinda Bier then developed a long-standing and highly regarded program of extramurally-funded research around empowering youth to tackle civic and health problems (Youth Empowerment in Action), which became the fourth cornerstone program of the CCC. Dr. Virginia Navarro began an initiative to integrate character and citizenship education into the teacher training curriculum, initially with a grant from the Character Education Partnership. Dr. David Shields is currently working to systematically revise the pre-service curriculum to extend this work. Finally, numerous graduate courses have already been created and are taught regularly and currently a proposal has been submitted for a new M.Ed. program in Educational Psychology with a core focus on character and citizenship education.
When Bryan Sokol joined the faculty at Saint Louis University, he was invited to join the CCC's Community of Scholars, thus beginning the intermuralization of the CCC. Currently, the Community of Scholars boasts 28 members from 9 regional institutions of higher education.