The Moral foundations of education Project

School Cultures and Student Formation Project

The intellectual, civic, and moral formation of the young has been a defining goal of American schools since the colonial period and the early Republic. The last three decades have witnessed a surge of concern that all three aspects of American education are falling short. New lines of research, however, suggest some bright spots on the educational landscape. This research finds that the sources and settings for moral and civic education matter—that the thickness of cultural endowments and the density of moral community within which those endowments find expression are significant in the formation of personal and public virtue in children.

Yet the research begs other questions. What is it about these schools that are most germane to character and citizenship formation? Is it the school’s formally articulated beliefs or moral commitments? Is it the daily social rituals? Is it high expectations placed upon academic performance and behavioral propriety? Is it the size of the school and the relative involvement of parents and other adult authority to it? Or is it something else altogether? Do intellectual, civic and moral expectations, ostensibly de-coupled in many public schools, actually reinforce one another in powerful ways? And what are the salient differences that might exist among schools between the sectors? And are there differences among schools within a given sector?

The scholarly objective of the School Cultures and Student Formation Project is to systematically explore distinctive approaches to character and citizenship education across nine school sectors:

  1. Urban public schools
  2. Rural public schools
  3. Elite independent schools
  4. Charter schools
  5. Catholic schools
  6. Protestant Evangelical schools
  7. Jewish schools
  8. Muslim schools
  9. Pedagogical schools
  10. Home schools

The larger purpose of this project is to understand competing institutional settings and ways in which personal and public virtue is formed within school-aged children. This project will attempt to fill the void in the scholarship on the relationship between schooling and the formation of moral sensibilities and habits among the young.

Project Management

  • James Davison Hunter is Principal Investigator for the Moral Foundations of Educations Project. He is the founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and holds the LaBrosse-Levinson Distinguished Chair of Religion, Culture and Social Theory at the University of Virginia.
  • David Sikkink is Research Director for the School Cultures and Student Formation Project. He is Associate Professor of Sociology at Notre Dame University and a Fellow at both the Center for the Study of Religion and Society and the Institute for Educational Initiatives.
  • Tony Tian-Ren Lin is Grant Manager for the Moral Foundations of Education Project. He is a Research Scholar and Co-Director of the American Christianity and Late Modernity Project at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

School Sector Advisors

  • David Campbell is Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame and the founding director of the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy.
  • John D. Inazu is Associate Professor at Washington University School of Law.
  • Scott Seider is Assistant Professor in Education at Boston University School of Education.
  • Martin West is Assistant Professor of Education at Harvard University and Deputy Director of Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance.
  • Carl Desportes Bowman is Director of Survey Research at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and Co-Director of the Culture of American Families Project.

View the Project Scholars >>

Download the School Cultures and Student Formation Overview >>

Project Scholars

  • Jeffrey Guhin (Urban Public Schools) – Abd el-Kader Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture

    Jeffrey GuhinJeff Guhin has published on the sociology of religion, the sociology of education, and science and technology. Guhin’s dissertation (August 2013 defense) is a four-part comparative ethnography of Christian and Muslim high schools in the New York City area, with a particular focus upon how scripture and science, prayer, and identity interact in these communities. Before graduate school, he spent four years as a caseworker in the South Bronx and a teacher at a Catholic girls’ school in Brooklyn.

  • Richard Fournier (Rural Public Schools) – PhD Candidate, Boston University School of Education

    Richard FournierRichard Fournier is a Dean’s doctoral fellow in the Education Leadership and Policy program at Boston University. He has published works in American history, teacher evaluation, and online education. He has taught history and political science at an independent Maine high school and worked several years in research, evaluation, and policy at the Education Development Center, Inc. in Massachusetts.


  • Kathryn Wiens (Elite Independent Schools) – Director of Academic Advancement, Council on Educational Standards and Accountability

    Kathryn WiensKathryn L. Wiens, Ed.D. has worked as a teacher and school system administrator in public and independent schools for 15 years and as a scientific researcher for three years. She holds a doctorate in administration, training, and policy studies from Boston University, where she studied single-sex education. Prior to serving as the Director of Academic Advancement at the Council on Educational Standards and Accountability, she served as the Director of Curriculum and Assessment and science department chair at an independent school in Boston. She is the author of the book, Boys Who Achieve, along with numerous articles on gender and learning.
  • Patricia A. Maloney (Charter Schools) – Assistant Professor of Sociology, Texas Tech University

    Patricia MaloneyDr. Maloney was a fellow at Yale’s Center for Research on Inequalities and the Life Course, Center for Comparative Research, and the McDougal Center; she also received Yale’s Graduate Student Outstanding Teaching Prize and support from the Ford Foundation for research on charter schools. From 2004-2006, Dr. Maloney taught for Teach for America, and some of her current research under review explores similarities and differences between charter and traditional public school teachers.  Her current book project is the first ethnography of Teach For America.
  • Carol Ann MacGregor (Catholic Schools) – Assistant Professor of Sociology, Loyola University New Orleans

    Carol Ann MacGregorCarol Ann MacGregor’s research focuses on three important social institutions that shape many individuals' lives: schools, religious organizations, and voluntary associations. Dr. MacGregor’s current book project looks at the causes and consequences of the closing of Catholic schools (K-12) in the United States. Her work has been published in the American Sociological Review, Social Science Research, Research in the Sociology of Work, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion and Poetics.

  • David Sikkink (Protestant Evangelical Schools) – Research Director for the School Cultures and Student Formation Project

    David SikkinkDavid Sikkink is Associate Professor of Sociology at Notre Dame University and a Fellow at both the Center for the Study of Religion and Society and the Institute for Educational Initiatives. He has published widely on religion and educational outcomes, voluntarism, and religion and social capital, and has received major funding for his work on religion and society from the Lilly, Pew, and Templeton Foundations. Dr. Sikkink was the lead researcher on Cardus’ Education Survey, a study of graduates from Protestant and Catholic schools.

  • Jack Wertheimer (Jewish Schools) – The Joseph and Martha Mendelson Professor of American Jewish History, The Jewish Theological Seminary

    Jack WertheimerJack Wertheimer earned his doctorate in Jewish history at Columbia University and his area of specialization is modern Jewish history, with a particular focus on trends in the religious, educational, and organizational sectors of American Jewish life since World War II. He previously served as the Provost at JTS and was the founding director of the Joseph and Miriam Ratner Center for the Study of Conservative Judaism. Dr. Wertheimer is the author or editor of more than a dozen books and numerous essays, among them a volume of portraits of 10 Jewish supplementary schools and most recently a book entitled The New Jewish Leaders: Transforming American Jewish Life.
  • Charles L. Glenn (Muslim Schools) – Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Boston University

    Charles GlennCharles Glenn’s research explores ways in which different educational systems negotiate the interests and authority of parents, educators, the state, and the institutions of civil society. Professor Glenn has published nearly 300 chapters and reviews and dozens of books, most recently an international survey of school systems in 65 countries (Balancing Freedom, Autonomy, and Accountability in Education, 2012, with Tilburg De Groof). He led Massachusetts’ urban education and equity efforts from 1970-1991 and often serves as an international consultant and expert witness in federal court cases on school finance, desegregation, bilingual education, and church-state relations in education.
  • Kari Christoffersen (Pedagogical Schools) – Assistant Research Director for the School Cultures and Student Formation Project

    David SikkinkKari Christoffersen is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at the University of Notre Dame and expects to complete her Ph.D. in Fall 2013.





  • Jeffrey Dill (Home Schools) – Research Assistant Professor of Social Thought, Templeton Honors College and Research Director, Agora Institute for Civic Virtue and the Common Good, Eastern University

    Jeffrey DillPrior to joining Eastern University’s faculty, Jeff Dill was a Bradley Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. His research focuses on questions of pluralism and difference in educational systems, moral and citizenship education, and socialization processes in schools. His work has been published in Society, Social Forces, and the Journal of Moral Education.  His book, The Longings and Limits of Global Citizenship Education (Routledge), was published in May 2013.

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The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture is an interdisciplinary research center and intellectual community at the University of Virginia committed to understanding contemporary cultural change and its individual and social consequences, training young scholars, and providing intellectual leadership in service to the public good.

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