Towards a new era of character education in theory and in practice

David Walker, Michael Roberts, Kristján Kristjánsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


The authors use a Bourdieuean framework of “legitimating principles” and the “symbolic capital” of dominant “discursive themes” to explore (a) the genealogy and (b) the current state of the discourse on “character education” (understood broadly as any approach to moral education that foregrounds the cultivation of moral character and moral virtue). After tracing the genealogy of the legitimating principles for the cultivation of pupils’ characters, from the “sinful pupils” of the eighteenth century to the “flourishing pupils” at the beginning of the twenty-first, the authors argue that although the battle for the symbolic capital of character education may be winning at the theoretical level and the level of empirical school-based practice, there is still a battle for legitimating principles that needs to be won – and which has barely begun – at institutional levels. Research findings and academic advances in current character education need to be adapted to the language used in official policy. To achieve that aim, character educationists must act as “knowledge brokers”, repackaging information in an effective way to legitimate changes in teacher training and educational policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-96
JournalEducational Review
Issue number1
Early online date30 Sept 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • character education
  • legitimating principles
  • genealogy
  • school practice
  • educational policy and teacher training


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