Character Education: Why it Doesn’t Work (and How It Could)

As modern American culture has grown more pluralistic, it has a reduced number of common assumptions, commitments, and language. This has led to two important results. The first is the rise of a tacit positivism: the belief that all public claims to knowledge should be empirically, scientifically, or mathematically justified. The second result is a twofold “thinning” of public discourse, which reduces our moral language to that which is completely uncontroversial. This thinning of our public language severs ethical claims from thick ethical traditions and communities that sustain those claims in preference of a positivist ethical logic. These results can be seen throughout American schools, including even classical Christian schools with the best possible intentions. How can we avoid this twofold trap? How can classical Christian schools use their rich intellectual resources to support communities that continually engage in moral formation? This presentation is based on research conducted during the last five years by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.

Al Zambone

Dr. Albert Louis Zambone is Manager of Applied Research at the Advanced Studies in Culture Foundation in Charlo esville, VA. An historian of early American intellectual and religious culture, he and his team work to bring the results of academic research to practitioners in schools, government, and boardrooms.