Does Character Matter?

Essays on Opportunity and the American Dream

Richard V. Reeves ,

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Does Character Matter?: Essays on Opportunity and the American Dream

About the eBook

Sixteen thoughtful writers consider character cultivation. Richard Reeves introduces this collection of short essays with a challenge: "I defy you to find a richer set of writings on the philosophical, empirical, and practical issues raised by a focus on character, and in particular its relationship to questions of opportunity."

The evidence? The works of sixteen thoughtful skeptics of and enthusiasts for the public endeavor of character cultivation. The authors in this collection provide differing political perspectives to give at least equal weight to the moral dimensions of character as well as strong demands to honor individual free will and individual development.

This collection includes essays that draw attention to the gendered nature of character formation; stress the importance of culture, social norms; and explain the impact of chronic stress in the early years. Still others argue that the construction of a policy agenda for the cultivation of character poses a stark challenge to the partisan culture of contemporary politics, but may also alleviate it by reinvigorating community life.

As Reeves writes, don't take his word for it. Read the essays and see for yourself.


Introduction, Richard V. Reeves

Skills and Scaffolding, James Heckman

Character Is Experience, Joseph Fishkin

Free Will: The Missing Link between Character and Opportunity, Martin E. P. Seligman

Conscientiousness: A Primer, Brent Roberts

Chronic Adversity Shapes Character, Ross Thompson

Responsible Parenting: A Test of Character?, Isabel Sawhill

Gendered Character, Jen Lexmond

Women, Character and Competition, Carmit Segal

Cultures Build Character, Stuart Butler

Grit and Community, Mark Dunkelman

Schools of Character, Dominic Randolph

Morality before Performance, Marvin Berkowitz

Authority and Morality Build Character, Lawrence M. Mead

We Need Empathy, Too, Amitai Etzioni

Character Education: A Cautionary Note, Mike Rose

The Thorny Politics of Mobility, Lanae Erickson Hatalsky

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