Why has “character” become such a polarizing word in the world of education? According to Angela Duckworth, the guest in this episode, we’re teaching character in schools no matter what. And that’s partly why she started Character Lab a decade ago. She joins host Russ Roberts to talk about her quest to unite teachers, parents, and science to make character education more intentional and less accidental.

So how did the notion of character become so out-of-fashion, and what are we missing in schools today if we don’t attend to it? School remains the place where young people spend the most time, so how can we make the most of it? As always, now we’re interested in your thoughts.



1- What do you think the most compelling arguments are for keeping character education out of schools? How does what Duckworth means by character (think Aristotle and Martin Luther King) differ from the way we usually hear character [education] referred to? What should be the role of schools in young people’s character development?


2- Russ asks Duckworth what will be different about the 21st century. How does she respond, and why is she so hopeful about what’s to come? To what extent has she convinced you?


3- A question on which there may not have been as much resolution as listeners may have liked: Is character fixed? Can a person really build character? What does Duckworth have to say? What do you have to say?


4- Roberts was keen on the idea of a lab. Are schools character labs in the way he suggests? Explain.


5- Duckworth speaks at length about grit as a character trait, and her efforts at trying to “reverse-engineer” achievement and effort. How is grit different from productivity? What role does “toggling” play in achievement, and how might grit contribute to an individual’s happiness (think alignment, harmony, and/or flourishing)?


Bonus Challenge: Russ opines that it would be hard to put Duckworth’s’ message on a bumper sticker. But we bet you might be able to do it. So give it a whirl, and share your ideas. You just might get some EconTalk swag in return…