The Social Construction of Virtue: The Moral Life of Schools

The Social Construction of Virtue: The Moral Life of Schools

by George W. Noblit, Van O. Dempsey

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Examines how schools function as agents and transmitters of moral life in communities.

It’s time to face an inevitable conclusion: School reform does not reform schools. That’s because reform movements conceive of schools as being about transmitting knowledge. Yet, schools are not primarily about knowledge. They are about the construction of meaning and morality in the lives of students and communities. In this book, the authors argue that to break this recycling of reform efforts, we must understand how schools construct moral life.

The focus is on two elementary schools: Rougemont, an historically African American school that was closed during school desegregation in the 1970s, and Cedar Grove, an historically white school to which the former Rougemont students were sent. Described are the histories of these schools, the communities in which they are located, and some of the people who influenced and were influenced by the schools. From those contexts the authors then make explicit the “virtues” that these communities and schools constructed and valued, and describe how those virtues came to influence lives.

The oral histories of the two schools and their communities provide the basis of a novel critique of the value conflict that has characterized educational reform in this country. The social construction of virtue offers an alternative perspective on the moral purpose of schooling in America.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780791430804
Publisher: State University of New York Press
Publication date: 09/28/1996
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 225
Product dimensions: 5.88(w) x 8.93(h) x 0.57(d)

About the Author

George W. Noblit is Professor of Social Foundations of Education with a joint appointment in Educational Leadership at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the co-editor (with William Pink) of Schooling in Social Context and co-author (with R. Dwight Hare) of Meta-Ethnography: Synthesizing Qualitative Studies.

Van O. Dempsey is Assistant Professor of Educational Foundations at West Virginia University.

Table of Contents


1. Education and the Social Construction of Virtue

2. Ideas That Bind and Blind

3. Cedar Grove School

4. Rougemont School

5. Books and the Power of Narrative

6. Reclaiming Moral Life with Schools



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