Creating a Culture of Excellence & Ethics

Developing a culture of excellence and ethics that promotes the core virtues.

Key Ideas:

  1. The school is a community with an ethical culture.
  2. The ethical culture of a school is defined by its operative values, ones reflected in actual school practices and the behavior of the school's members (do people respect each other? is attention paid to moral concerns?) Operative values are true norms -- what people expect of everybody else and are willing, to some meaningful degree, to enforce.
  3. The school's ethical culture is important because:
    • It has a powerful effect on the ethical behavior of the members of the school community (a positive ethical culture pulls behavior up, a negative culture pulls it down).
    • It affects the character development of the members of the school. (If the school is a caring and honest environment, students more readily develop those character qualities. It's easier to become a good person when you are surrounded by goodness.)


  1. Creating a positive ethical culture in the school involves defining, communicating, modeling, teaching, celebrating, and enforcing or upholding the school's professed core virtues.
  2. Six elements are important parts of a positive ethical culture:
    • Ethical leadership, typically from the building principal but also from other staff and students themselves
    • Schoolwide discipline that upholds the school's values in all parts of the school environment
    • A schoolwide sense of community
    • A feeling on the part of students that "this is our school, and we are responsible for making it the best school it can be" (participatory student government contributes to this as well)
    • An ethical climate of mutual respect and cooperation that pervades all relationships, those among adults as well as those between adults and students
    • Time spent on ethical concerns — reflecting on the quality of ethical life in the school.