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Faculty & Research

Richard Weissbourd

Senior Lecturer on Education

Richard Weissbourd

Degree:  Ed.D., Harvard University, (1987)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Phone:  617.495.2031
Vitae/CV:   Richard Weissbourd.pdf
Office:  Longfellow 328
Office Hours Contact:  Email the Faculty Member
Faculty Coordinator:  Mark McNally


Richard Weissbourd is a Senior Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Kennedy School of Government. His work focuses on moral development, the nature of hope, vulnerability and resilience in childhood, parenting and effective schools and services for children. He directs the Making Caring Common Project, a national effort to make moral and social development priorities in child-raising and to provide strategies to schools and parents for promoting in children caring, a commitment to justice and other key moral and social capacities. He leads an initiative to reform college admissions, Turning the Tide, which has engaged over 300 college admissions offices. This initiative seeks to elevate ethical character, reduce excessive achievement pressure and increase equity and access in the college admissions process. He is also conducting research on how older adults can better mentor young adults and teenagers in developing caring, ethical, mature romantic relationships.   

He is a founder of several interventions for children facing risks, including ReadBoston and WriteBoston, city-wide literacy initiatives led by Mayor Menino. He is also a founder of a pilot school in Boston, the Lee Academy, that begins with children at 3 years old. He has advised on the city, state and federal levels on family policy, parenting and school reform and has written for numerous scholarly and popular publications and blogs, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Psychology Today and NPR.  He is the author of The Vulnerable Child: What Really Hurts America’s Children and What We Can Do About It (Addison-Wesley, 1996), named by the American School Board Journal as one of the top 10 education books of all time.  His most recent book, The Parents We Mean to Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children's Moral and Emotional Development (Houghton Mifflin 2009), was named by The New Yorker as one of the top 24 books of 2009. 

Click here to see a full list of Richard Weissbourd's courses.

Areas of Expertise

Runner Up, National Awards for Education Reporting 2012. Opinion in an Education-Only Newsroom: Promoting Moral Development in Schools, Harvard Education Letter, 28(1), Jan/Feb 2012. (2012),(2012)

Awarded One of Top 10 Education Books of All Time by American School Board Journal, for The Vulnerable Child (Addison-Wesley, 1996)

Best Editorial Award from Association of Educational Publishers for The "Quiet" Troubles of Low Income Children, Harvard Education Letter, 24(2), March/April 2008.

Book selected by New Yorker reviewers as one of the top 24 nonfiction books of 2009. Weissbourd, R. The Parents We Mean to Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children's Moral and Emotional Development (Houghton Mifflin, 2009).

Sponsored Projects


Understanding the Scalability of Parenting Strategies Designed to Promote Key Virtues (2021-2023)
John Templeton Foundation

Making Caring Common proposes a two-year project to examine the take-up and implementation of evidence-based strategies-- routines, practices and activities-- that support the development of three key virtues in children—empathy, gratitude, and diligence. While parents and caregivers are frequently offered strategies and activities intended to promote these virtues by nonprofit and commercial organizations and parenting experts, rigorous data is distressingly scarce about whether and why parents actually take-up specific strategies and about if and how they use them over time. To answer these questions about usage, we propose to assess various engaging, evidence-based activities, practices, or routines designed to promote these virtues in 7-to-10-year-old children. We will conduct this research with 270 families, each engaging in an evidence-based strategy for eight months (nine strategies, 30 families per strategy).This study will generate vital information about which evidence-based strategies that promote these virtues are more or less likely to be used on a large scale and whether there are demographic and family factors that contribute to which strategies work for whom. While this study focuses mainly on take-up and implementation, we will also collect data on parents’ perceptions of the impact of strategies on both children’s and their own beliefs and behaviors related to the three virtues. We will disseminate our results and activities widely to parents, caregivers, practitioners, and researchers via myriad channels, including reports, blog posts, partnerships with organizations working with parents and caregivers and prominent media outlets such as Cartoon Network and Disney.


Weissbourd, R., Batanova, M., Lovison, V., and Torres, E. (2021, Feb.) MCC Report, Loneliness in America: How the Pandemic Has Deepened an Epidemic of Loneliness and What We Can Do About It

Weissbourd, R., Way, N., and Bracket, M., (2021, Feb. 9) The pandemic is fueling a crisis of connection. The next surgeon general should tackle both. The Hill.

Weissbourd, R. and Cashin, A. (2020, Feb. 20). Parents’ obsession with raising happy kids is a big problem. Boston Globe.

Weissbourd, R. (2020, May 5) 5 ways to teach our children empathy in these challenging times. Washington Post.

Weissbourd, R., Barnard, B., and Anderson, T.R. (2020, May 29) Will the Pandemic Revolutionize College Admissions? Wall Street Journal Saturday Review

Weissbourd, R., Batanova, M., McIntyre, J., and Torres, E. (2020, Jun.) How the Pandemic is Strengthening Fathers' Relationships with Their Children,

Weissbourd, R. (2020, Dec. 11) To Build It Back Better, Learn to Talk Across the Political Divide. Nations Well.

Weissbourd, R. and Barnard, B. (2019, Sept. 5). The college admissions process is ‘unconscionably unjust.’ Here’s one way to help change that. Washington Post.

Weissbourd, R. and Cashin, A. (2019, Dec. 16). Here’s How to Raise Healthy, Well-Adjusted Teens. Thrive Global.

Weissbourd, R. and Cashin, A. (2018, Oct. 16) 5 ways parents can help kids understand consent and prevent sexual assault. Washington Post.

Weissbourd, R. (2018, Oct.). “Let’s take a Stand Against Sexual Harassment in School,” Educational Leadership.

Weissbourd, R. and Gardner, H. (2017, Sept. 6). The fundamental things we aren’t teaching our kids. Washington Post.

Weissbourd, R. (2009). The parents we mean to be: How well-intentioned adults undermine children's moral and emotional development. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The Vulnerable Child: What Really Hurts America's Children and What We Can Do About It, (1996).

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Professional Education Programs