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:
- Traditional public schools
- Charter schools
- Catholic schools
- Protestant schools
- Jewish schools
- Muslim schools
- Elite independent schools
- Pedagogical schools
- 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.
- 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 >>