This is a one-of-a-kind book exploring varieties of moral formation through on-the-ground research in ten different types of American high schools.
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About the chapter: Urban public schools have, since their founding, been concerned with promoting social mobility and remedying inequality through academic instruction and the imparting of skills. Nevertheless, urban public schools have also, since their founding, been concerned with promoting morality and citizenship. How are they doing that now?
Excerpts: “Urban public schools have, since their founding, been concerned with promoting social mobility and remedying inequality through academic instruction and the imparting of skills. Nevertheless, urban public schools have also, since their founding, been concerned with promoting morality and citizenship.”
“My research produced a straightforward result. Urban public schools were dedicated to two layers of morality: a commitment to “helping” for teachers and to “self-actualization” for students. There was a kind of “moral invisible hand,” a sense in which the schools’ public duty to the nation was best served by helping each student as an individual be successful in whichever way they chose.”
“The schools’ moral vision was a bifurcated one, with teachers understood to be people whose lives were primarily about helping, and students understood to be people whose lives were primarily about self-realization. Whether that self-realization could resemble the lives of the adults in the building—whether, in other words, I should say that a life of service is itself better than a life of individual ambition—was left up to each individual student to decide.”
“Self-actualization was by far the most important moral idea in any of the schools, on both an aggregate and individual level. It represented what schools were supposed to do according to administrators and to district, state, and federal programs. It was what the teachers and principals wanted for the students, and what the students themselves wanted.”
About the author: Dr. Jeffrey Guhin is assistant professor of sociology at the University of California Los Angeles. From 2013 to 2016, he was the Postdoctoral Abd el-Kader Fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. He earned his Ph.D. with distinction in sociology from Yale University.
About the chapter: The Jewish day school sector is divided into subsectors differing considerably in religious orientation, educational goals, and comfort with American popular culture and mores. The commonality of these schools is that they all offer a mix of general studies and Judaica, ranging from one or two school periods daily to a full day devoted to Jewish studies. How do these curricular choices shape the character of students?
About the author: Dr. Jack Wertheimer is professor of American Jewish History at The Jewish Theological Seminary. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University.
JAMES DAVISON HUNTER
James Davison Hunter is the Labrosse-Levinson Distinguished Professor of Religion, Culture, and Social Theory at the University of Virginia and Executive Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. He has written eight books, edited three books, and published a wide range of essays, articles, and reviews all variously concerned with the problem of meaning and moral order in a time of political and cultural change in American life.
RYAN S. OLSON
Ryan S. Olson is Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. He served as Fellow in Late Antiquity at the Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University, and received his doctorate in classics from Oxford University in 2007. His book, Tragedy, Authority, and Trickery, a study of classical narrative epistolography in its historical, literary, and cultural contexts, was published in 2010 by Harvard University Press.
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