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A question of character

The idea of "good character" sounds old-fashioned and patronising, but it may be the key to some of our most entrenched social problems. Politicians across the spectrum are starting to realise this

By Richard Reeves   August 2008

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The first headmaster of Stowe school, JF Roxburgh, declared his goal to be turning out young men who would be “acceptable at a dance and invaluable in a shipwreck.” A mixture of courtesy and courage used to be essential to the idea of a British citizen’s character. Brits were the sort of people who knew both how to survive a Blitz and queue politely. Similarly, Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the scout movement, aimed to induce in his young charges “some of the spirit of self-negation, self-discipline, sense of humour, responsibility,…

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