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:
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:
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.