Over the past 20 years, UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center has done trailblazing work to translate the science of character virtue into practical resources that engage millions of people. Key to the GGSC’s success has been our programs for educators and parents, who constitute the majority of our audience and have used our resources to nurture character virtues in youth on a wide scale. This work has paralleled and helped to fuel relevant scholarship and programs. Yet we believe that too often these programs overlook the moral, relational, and spiritual dimensions of children’s lives. Such an individualistic approach is insufficient to meet the profound challenges that today’s youth will face or inherit.
That is why we now propose a new initiative with the overarching goal of supporting the moral, civic, and spiritual development of children. It is animated by the belief that to address the greatest challenges facing the world today, youth need to develop an orientation to the world that transcends a narrow focus on the self. They need skills to help them form strong relationships with others and hone their sense of purpose, social responsibility, and common humanity. These skills of moral and civic character, often supported by a strong spiritual foundation, are particularly vital to helping youth bridge differences in an increasingly diverse—and polarized—United States.
This project will help youth develop these skills by giving their parents and educators science-based resources, training, and support. Building on our past work, our project activities will center on providing thought leadership through multimedia content, spreading best practices, leading professional development, and strengthening communities of practice. In effect, these activities will greatly expand the reach of research-based insights for moral, civic, and spiritual development—while supporting the deeper implementation of these insights on a large scale, at a critical time.