What appealed to Levin about the list of character strengths that Seligman and Peterson compiled was that it was presented not as a finger-wagging guilt trip about good values and appropriate behavior but as a recipe for a successful and happy life. He was wary of the idea that KIPP’s aim was to instill in its students “middle-class values,” as though well-off kids had some depth of character that low-income students lacked. “The thing that I think is great about the character-strength approach,” he told me, “is it is fundamentally devoid of value judgment.”
Now, if on average the poor possess an equivalent amount of most virtues--discipline, generosity, prudence, etc.--then there's a massive and subtle conspiracy of DaVinci code proportions going on. Virtues by definition make us prosperous, statistically. The idea that the poor are so insecure that they have to be told an obvious untruth to maintain their self-esteem merely creates more resentment against society, which they are told again and again is fundamentally unfair in a really subtle pervasive way. The truth, or something close to it, is necessary for finding the good, and that means telling kids they need bourgeois values. If someone points out that such values are more like 'middle class values' than 'public housing values', the kinder might actually appreciate the connection between these abstract concepts and concrete results.