In Character: A Platform for Educators to Share Ideas on Culture, Character, and Society

How does education form character? How do educators contribute to the formation of students’ character? What role do families and institutions play in the process? How does culture impact the development of character—and vice versa?

These are important questions that parents, educators, policymakers, academics, philanthropists, and other stakeholders have asked since formal schooling began in the United States. And yet, there have been few places in which educators and stakeholders can gather to discuss ideas to answer these questions.

One place to go for answers to these important questions is the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture (IASC) at the University of Virginia.

Established in 1995 by sociologist Dr. James Hunter, IASC works with scholars committed to understanding contemporary cultural change and its individual and social consequences on a number of topics. K-12 education is one of them. To this end, Drs. James Davison Hunter and Ryan Olson (IASC director) published The Content of Their Character: Inquiries into the Varieties of Moral Formation in 2018. This pathbreaking book features in-depth, on-the-ground research by leading scholars into the complexities of shaping student character and moral values in American high schools. Research was conducted in 10 school sectors: urban public, rural public, charter, prestigious independent, evangelical Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Islamic, alternative-pedagogy, and home schools.

To build on IASC’s scholarship, the Advanced Studies in Culture Foundation (ASCF), established in 1995 to support the work of IASC, launched an “In Character” web page on the CultureFeed website in July of 2020 to establish an online idea-exchange forum for Pre-K-12 educators, scholars, and other stakeholders to share thinking about the impact of education and educators on culture. With the support of Katherine Bassett, the 2000 New Jersey Teacher of the Year, our conversations with educators, professors, and other stakeholders across the nation have resulted in 12 whole-group discussion videos, 60 one-on-one interview videos, and 23 blog pieces in March 31, 2021.

Here are whole-group topics discussed with 76 educators:

  1. Formation of Students
  2. The Impact of COVID-19 on the Culture of Learning
  3. How Educators Build a Culture of Resilience in Classrooms and Schools
  4. Establishing a Culture of Equity in the School Community
  5. The Role of Teacher Preparation in Readying Teacher Candidates to Build Cultures of Learning
  6. How Administrators Contribute to Culture in Schools and Communities
  7. The Impact of Early Childhood Educators on Establishing a Love of Learning
  8. The Role of Educators in Building a Culture of Shared Teaching and Learning with Families
  9. The Role of Rural Educators in Impacting a Culture of Learning
  10. The Role of Urban Educators in Impacting a Culture of Learning
  11. Working from Inside the State Education Agency to Establish a Culture of Learning
  12. Impacting School Culture as an Elected Official

Why does the “In Character” focus matter? While other education sites are available for educators to share their ideas, this one is unique for the following three reasons:

  • Few other websites exclusively focus on the role of culture in shaping character through education;
  • There are limited spaces where resources on culture are collected in one place;
  • All of the resources on the “In Character” page are culture-focused content generated by educators for educators.

If we plan to address the cultural challenges associated with modern American schooling, teaching, and learning, then educators and stakeholders must gather to discuss ideas, policies, and best practices. “In Culture” on the CultureFeed website is a unique place in which to convene these discussions. I look forward to more conversations in the future as well as the inclusion of educators and stakeholders from the diverse learning sectors highlighted in The Content of Their Character book.