What would I learn at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues if I got my work placement there? Would it actually be interesting, or would I end up making coffee and sorting out filing cabinets, like everyone else? I remember doing a questionnaire at school with the Centre’s name on it. I wonder what they were looking for from the study? What does one do in a research centre? How do you even research character?
Those were my thoughts as I wrote the email to the Centre all the way back in December 2015. I am 16 years old, I’m a student at what I’m told is one of the best schools regionally, and have no idea what I would like to do as an adult. I am interested in politics, sociology and philosophy and read about the subjects in my free time, so I was inquisitive about what goes on in a research centre at a leading (and local) university; particularly one which is interested in character, virtue and the application of research. My work experience placement was agreed and accepted by the Jubilee Centre, and I would start in June 2016. I had no idea what to expect.
The atmosphere at the Centre is relaxed, more than I expected, but work gets done. Everyone is friendly and everyone gets on with their own thing, each person working on their own project and research, covering a large variety of interrelated subjects, alongside the support team and management. I have found this variety of projects and people very beneficial to me, as it has provided me with an insight into a huge variety of possible avenues for me to go down in future. There are people here with backgrounds in Psychology, Philosophy, Education, the Military, Diplomacy and Healthcare, and speaking to them about their roles, responsibilities and research has helped me better understand each topic and profession – perfect for someone like me, with no single career path in mind. Speaking with and learning from the staff in the Centre has definitely helped me to gain a better awareness about what might be the best thing for me.
The projects themselves are really interesting; there are explorations into how character develops as nurses and soldiers progress through their respective fields; there is an investigation into how developing one character virtue in children, could develop other character virtues as a consequence; another on the implementation and impact of character education in three ‘beacon’ schools; and another looking at perceptions of character in marginalised young people, disengaged from ‘mainstream’ education. The Centre is truly interdisciplinary, and in addition to these research projects there is far more going on than I can say here!
During my work experience placement, I have taken part in surveys, supporting research into the effects of social media on young people’s moral development; I have spent time inputting data from research online, and I have helped develop an online character education course for professionals. In addition, from a skills perspective, working with the support team has allowed me to have first-hand experience doing actual practical jobs. I have helped look for subject-relevant publications, helping grow the content of the biggest online library of its kind; I have assisted in the planning of events, helping to organise a seating plan and guest list register for an event at the House of Lords, and have aided in designing and proofing certificates, flyers and brochures. I was even given the opportunity to welcome delegates to a conference attended by the Minister for Children and Families, and the launch of a new Association of Character Education. In the last 3 days, I have used Microsoft Excel more than in the past three years!
What I’ve found most useful, and seemingly unique to the Jubilee Centre itself, is that the experience has not just been work-related, but much more informative on a personal level. Reading the collection of research reports highlights what character is, but speaking about and focussing on matters of character and virtue on a daily basis has certainly made me think. What makes my school as good as it supposedly is? Is it just focussed on exam results, or does it consciously atempt to build and nurture flourishing pupils? How have I developed some virtues but appear to lack others? How would I act when faced with ethical and moral dilemmas? What really are my virtues? And am I ready to go into the world and make moral judgements, be a benefit to society and succeed and cope with whatever comes my way? Can we ever truly achieve eudaimonia?
Hayaan Choudhury, Student, King Edward’s School

Advertisements