Stanton Wortham

Stanton Wortham
Boston College, USA | BC · Lynch School of Education

Ph.D.

About

147
Publications
42,388
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Introduction
Stanton Wortham is the Charles F. Donovan, S.J., Dean of the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. His research applies techniques from linguistic anthropology to study interaction, learning and identity development in classrooms and organizations. He has also studied media discourse and autobiographical narrative. For the past decade he has done research with Mexican immigrant and Mexican American adolescents who live in areas of the United States that have only recently been home to large numbers of Latinos. This work explores the challenges and opportunities facing both Latino newcomers and host communities, in places where models of newcomers' identities and practices for dealing with newcomers are often more fluid than in areas with longstanding Latino populations.
Additional affiliations
July 1998 - present
University of Pennsylvania
Position
  • Professor (Full)

Publications

Publications (147)
Article
Full-text available
Faculty members abruptly transitioned to online course delivery during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Unfortunately, the isolation of learning online had the potential to damage students’ well-being during an already stressful pandemic. Furthermore, many faculty members had little experience with online modes of instruction and few effective st...
Article
Human activity involves interconnections among civic, social, emotional, ethical, spiritual, and intellectual aspects. Recent advocacy for “whole person” education suggests that educators should attend to these multiple dimensions, but it does not provide an account of integration, of what “wholeness” means. We argue that those who facilitate devel...
Article
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The COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented public health emergency, challenged higher education and threatened students’ well-being in several ways. With the abrupt shift to online learning, were instructors able to maintain a focus on educating whole students, in addition to teaching subject matter? We answer this question by investigating “formative...
Book
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This book describes an American town that became home to thousands of Mexican migrants between 1995-2016, where the Mexican population increased by over 1000% and Mexicans became almost a third of the town. We explore how the descendants of earlier migrants interacted with Mexican newcomers, describing how experiences of and stories about migration...
Article
We argue that ‘academic language’ should not be understood as technical components associated with a ‘register’, and that instead we must attend to its enregisterment. Enregisterment relies upon language ideologies and models of personhood, requiring attention to social components of ‘academic language’ beyond lexico-grammar. We draw on ethnographi...
Article
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Purpose Educational approaches that advocate “well-being,” the “whole child,” “social and emotional learning,” “character,” and the like emphasize human development beyond the acquisition of knowledge and skills. These approaches vary widely in their views of human nature, their visions of a good life, and their prescriptions for educational practi...
Book
Migration Narratives presents an ethnographic study of an American town that recently became home to thousands of Mexican migrants, with the Mexican population rising from 125 in 1990 to slightly under 10,000 in 2016. Through interviews with residents, the book focuses on key educational, religious, and civic institutions that shape and are shaped...
Article
This entry reviews recent research in the linguistic anthropology of education, a subfield within linguistic anthropology. Educational processes are always mediated through language, and anthropologists have for decades studied how language and culture operate in various types of educational processes. Theories and methods from linguistic anthropol...
Article
The concept of indexicality has been widely applied in the social sciences, the humanities, and other disciplines in recent decades. Many productive contemporary applications in anthropology draw on the philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, who elaborated this concept at the turn of the twentieth century. For Peirce, an indexical sign and the object...
Chapter
Over the past decades, “implementation science” has become a central concern of policymakers, researchers, and practitioners in medicine and more recently education. It is thought that education could be improved if researchers and practitioners collaborated more to incorporate relevant research findings. The typical assumption is that there is a q...
Article
This article investigates children’s elementary school experiences, exploring how they become autonomous, rational individuals—the type of person envisioned in the European Enlightenment and generally imagined as the outcome of Western schooling. Drawing on ethnographic research that followed one cohort of Latinx children across five years, we exam...
Article
Once a predominantly White and Black community, since 1990 Marshall has experienced a 900% increase in residents of Mexican origin. This rapid demographic shift is particularly evident in changes to how commercial and residential spaces are owned and utilized. This article examines how residents of Marshall use spatiotemporal scales to imagine the...
Chapter
This entry reviews recent research in the linguistic anthropology of education, a subfield within linguistic anthropology. Educational processes are always mediated through language, and anthropologists have for decades studied how language and culture operate in various types of educational processes. Theories and methods from linguistic anthropol...
Chapter
Discourse analysis is a research method that provides systematic evidence about social processes through the detailed examination of speech, writing, and other sign use. In a recent book (Wortham and Reyes 2015) and in this chapter, we argue that educational research on processes that occur across events – such as learning, socialization, and ident...
Article
Full-text available
In this paper we examine how resources, drawn from various spatial and temporal scales, contribute to shifts in how three Latina girls' deploy racial models of personhood as they move from eighth to eleventh grade. We argue that these changing perceptions are made possible by a set of contingent, heterogeneous resources, not by any predictable soci...
Article
The 2015 Engaging Students Through Technology Symposium was held on Friday, October 30. We brought together faculty, staff and graduate students for a day of sharing, networking and celebration! Stanton Wortham, faculty director of the Online Learning Initiative and Judy and Howard Berkowitz Professor in the Graduate School of Education provided op...
Article
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Drawing on data from ten years of ethnographic research in a New Latino Diaspora town, this article analyzes how heterogeneous resources become relevant to the social identification of one Latina middle school girl as sexually promiscuous. We describe how the focal girl, her parents, teachers, family members, and peers mobilize resources from sever...
Article
Full-text available
Attempts to improve education often change how language is used in schools. Many such efforts aim to include minoritized students by more fully including their languages. These are often met with resistance not so much about language but more about identity. Thus processes of social identification are implicated in efforts to change language in edu...
Chapter
Discourse analysis is a research method that provides systematic evidence about social processes through the detailed examination of speech, writing, and other sign use. In a recent book (Wortham and Reyes 2015) and in this chapter, we argue that educational research on processes that occur across events – such as learning, socialization, and ident...
Chapter
This entry reviews recent research in the linguistic anthropology of education, a subfield within linguistic anthropology. Educational processes are always mediated through language, and anthropologists have for decades studied how language and culture operate in various types of educational processes. Theories and methods from linguistic anthropol...
Chapter
Drawing on ethnographic research in one American elementary school, this chapter investigates how a group of young English-speaking students react to the increasing presence of Spanish in their school and community. The authors focus on how English-speaking African American students use basic Spanish words and phrases, speaking “faux Spanish,” as t...
Article
Full-text available
Latino students’ educational success is central to America’s prosperity—in traditional immigrant destinations and in New Latino Diaspora locations, previously unfamiliar with Latinos. Implicated in this success is the reception young immigrants receive, especially the ways in which they are identified in schools. We describe findings from 6 years o...
Article
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This article explores how language ideologies—beliefs about immigrant students’ language use—carry conflicting images of Spanish speakers in one New Latino Diaspora town. We describe how teachers and students encounter, negotiate, and appropriate divergent ideologies about immigrant students’ language use during routine schooling practices, and we...
Article
This article illustrates one way in which philosophical inquiry and empirical research can be combined to illuminate processes like learning and social identification. Over the past 20 years, my empirical work in classrooms and communities has drawn on philosophical discussions about how knowledge is interconnected with social relationships and how...
Article
This symposium brings together researchers from different countries, research disciplines and theoretical orientations, all of whom are engaged in the empirical study of connections between epistemologies and identities in educational settings. By comparing and contrasting their conceptions, methods and findings we seek to identify common themes an...
Article
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The social and natural worlds provide heterogeneous resources that contribute both to instances of social identification and to life trajectories. One might claim or be assigned membership in various groups, which emerge at different spatial and temporal scales, and resources for social identification are often combined in novel ways to yield unexp...
Article
Docēre, the Latin root for doctor, means to teach. At the heart of what we do as physicians is teaching; we teach our patients, their families, and our future physicians. Why do we devote so much time to education? No matter how well we diagnose and treat, if patients and families do not understand their treatment, it may be unsuccessful. No matter...
Article
It's the first day of school, and Christine eagerly awaits her students. Although she is a veteran kindergarten teacher in the Marshall School District, she has only recently begun to teach students of Mexican heritage. This year, the number of Spanish speakers in her class is at a record high, with about 75% of her students from Spanish-speaking h...
Article
This special issue explores whether the heuristics “macro” and “micro” capture the most important levels of explanation in the anthropology of education. Recent work suggests that we must move beyond a macro–micro approach. This introduction sketches reasons for going beyond macro and micro and reviews alternative approaches to explaining cultural...
Article
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Although many have documented the high value Latino families place on education, prevalent discourses nonetheless characterize Latino immigrant parents as not caring about their children's education. This paper describes the practice-based components of a participatory action research project in which we created a collaborative film, intended for u...
Article
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This essay explores the question of relevant scale: which of the many potentially relevant processes – from interactional through local through global, from nearly instantaneous through those emergent over months, years or centuries – in fact contributes to social identification in any given case, and how do these heterogeneous processes interrelat...
Article
In this review essay Stanton Wortham explores how philosophy of education should both turn inward, engaging with concepts and arguments developed in academic philosophy, and outward, encouraging educational publics to apply philosophical approaches to educational policy and practice. He develops his account with reference to two recent ambitious pr...
Article
As Mexican immigrants move to areas of the United States that have not been home to Latinos, both longstanding residents and newcomers must make sense of their new neighbors. In one East Coast suburb relevant models of identity are sometimes communicated through “payday mugging” stories about African American criminals mugging undocumented Mexican...
Article
IntroductionLinguistic AnthropologyLinguistic Anthropology of EducationThe Total Linguistic FactFormUseIdeologyDomainConclusions References
Article
“Homies” are a series of figurines created by a California artist, whose images are also available in other media (clothing, comics, videogames, stickers, the internet). The artist claims that these images represent people one finds in “the barrio.” As the images circulate, however, different audiences interpret them differently—some decrying the g...
Article
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This article sketches the implications of Gergen’s relational approach for educational research and practice. Gergen suggests that we envision education as a set of processes intended to enhance relationships. This is a radical departure from most mainstream educational research and practice, which is designed to enhance the individual’s mind. We f...
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This commentary engages with essentially contestable questions raised by the School of the Dialogue of Cultures. It focuses on questions about how theory should relate to practice and how a "dialogic" approach can involve students in simultaneously rigorous and relevant academic discussions.
Article
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Interviews are designed to gather propositional information communicated through reference and predication. Some lament the fact that interviews always include interactional positioning that presupposes and sometimes creates social identities and power relationships. Interactional aspects of interview events threaten to corrupt the propositional in...
Article
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Someone tells you a story. It seems wrong. It misrepresents someone you care about. But it has been told by someone you do not want to offend or contradict. What do you do? You feel you must say something—set the record straight, absolve your friend, clarify your relationship to her, assert your view on what is right and wrong. How do stories provo...
Article
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Background A typical account of listening focuses on cognition, describing how a listener understands and reacts to the cognitive contents of a speaker's utterance. The articles in this issue move beyond a cognitive view, arguing that listening also involves moral, aesthetic, and political aspects. Focus of Study This article attends to all four d...
Article
Liam Frink is contributing editor of “Ethical Currents,” the AAA Committee on Ethics column in Anthropology News.
Article
Full-text available
Globalization has brought rapid migration to many regions previously unfamiliar with immigration. In these changing landscapes long-time residents must make sense of their new neighbors, and immigrants must adjust to hosts' ideas about them and develop their own accounts of a new social context. How immigrants are viewed and how they view themselve...
Article
This article presents the results of three separate studies of literacy teaching and learning in the U.S. that explore the social functions of language, specifically focused on the identity development of literacy learners and teachers. Each study offers a detailed account of how literate identities are constructed and enacted and the positive and...
Article
Rapid Mexican immigration has challenged host communities to make sense of immigrants' place in New Latino Diaspora towns. We describe one town in which residents often characterize Mexican immigrants as model minorities with respect to work and civic life but not with respect to education. We trace how this stereotype is deployed, accepted, and re...
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Article
This paper describes one way in which students can develop durable local identities in science classrooms. When students enter new classrooms or lab groups their identities are indeterminate, to varying degrees. Over time, however, students and teachers generally come to identify a given student in robust and predictable ways. The process of develo...
Chapter
Full-text available
Linguistic anthropologists investigate how language use both presupposes and creates social relations in cultural context (Silverstein, 1985; Duranti, 1997; Agha, 2006). Theories and methods from linguistic anthropology have been productively applied in educational research for the past 40 years. This chapter describes key aspects of a linguistic a...
Chapter
Form and UsePower and IdeologyDomain and TrajectoryConclusions Appendix: Transcription Conventions
Article
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Education is not a discipline, but a phenomenon. We conceptualize education as a fuzzy set of processes that occur in events and institutions that involve both informal socialization and formal learning. Various objects are constructed in educational processes, like the identities of teachers and learners, the subject matter learned and the social...
Chapter
Full-text available
How does this exchange between a teacher and a 14-year-old student contribute to the student’s social identity? Knowing that the student is a working-class African-American girl, and that the teacher is a middle-class European-American man, we might construe this as a powerful teacher silencing a disempowered student. Widely circulating categories...
Article
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A two-year ethnographic study examines how two U.S. investment banks managed bankers’ uncertainty differently and achieved distinct forms of participant transformation, including listening outcomes. People Bank reduced uncertainty by conveying abstract concepts. Socialized bankers exhibited a preferential orientation toward abstractions, including...
Article
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This book describes how social identification and academic learning can deeply depend on each other, through a theoretical account of the two processes and a detailed empirical analysis of how students' identities emerged andhowstudents learned curriculum in one classroom. The book traces the identity development of two students across an academic...
Article
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This ambitious and rewarding book combines aspects of several genres. It is a methodological guidebook, offering strategies for doing ethnography, discourse analysis and action research. It is an empirical report, describing the authors' use of email and other resources to improve Native Alaskans' access to higher education from 1978-1983. It is a...
Chapter
The American people have set important social goals to improve the quality of American life. Although there is some evidence of progress toward these goals, there are few accurate indicators of the changes actually taking place and the problems encountered along the road to attainment. The development of statistics and other pertinent information i...
Article
In the past fifteen years, the town of New Marshall has experienced major changes that have influenced the ways its residents view each other. Mexican immigration to New Marshall, a suburb of 30,000 located outside a large Eastern city, grew dramatically between 1990 and 2000. Where once Mexicans comprised less than 0.5% of the population, they now...
Article
Full-text available
Many have argued that narrators can partly construct themselves when they tell autobiographical stories. For this reason, autobiographical narrative has been proposed as a therapeutic tool (Anderson 1997; Cohler 1988; White and Epston 1990), as a means to critique unjust social orders (Personal Narratives Group 1989; Rosenwald and Ochberg 1992; Zus...
Article
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Some see schools primarily as places where students learn academic skills that are crucial to individual and social development. Others see them primarily as places where students are stigmatised and where social inequality is reproduced. Despite their differences, both views of schooling tend to assume the same unrealistic conception of schooled k...
Article
This book describes how social identification and academic learning can deeply depend on each other, through a theoretical account of the two processes and a detailed empirical analysis of how students identities emerged and how students learned curriculum in one classroom. The book traces the identity development of two students across an academic...
Article
Full-text available
Socialization takes place intertextually, across events. This article develops the concept "trajectory of socialization," a connected series of events across which individuals come to participate in forms of life. The empirical analysis follows a trajectory of socialization traveled by one ninth-grade student as she gets socialized into academic li...
Article
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When students and teachers discuss subject matter, at least two processes gen- erally occur: Students and teachers become socially identified as recognizable types of people, and students learn subject matter. This article contributes to recent work on how social identification and learning systematically inter- relate by describing one complex way...
Article
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The process of social identification draws on heterogeneous resources from several levels of explanation. This article illustrates how, by describing the identity development of one student across an academic year in a ninth-grade classroom. Analyses of transcribed classroom conversations show teachers and students drawing on multiple resources as...
Article
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School socializes children into institutional and academic practices. Because socialization occurs over time, it cannot be analyzed simply by describing typical speech events that occur in school. In addition, we must analyze trajectories of events across which schoolchildren become different kinds of people. This paper analyzes the social identifi...
Article
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In this article we show how, whether the goal is reflecting or creating reality, research interviewers must pay closer attention to the particular trajectories of the interactional events in which they collect their data. We focus on two guidelines that research interviewers often use - the injunction to maximize similarities of social identity bet...
Article
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Individuals become socially identified when categories of identity are used repeatedly to characterize them. Speech that denotes participants and involves parallelism between descriptions of participants and the events that they enact in the event of speaking can be a powerful mechanism for accomplishing consistent social identification. This artic...
Article
Young, low-income, African American fathers have been at the center of research, practice, and policy on families over the past decade. This article uses a “voicing” analytic technique to examine identities among young, low-income, African American fathers living in an urban setting; the intersections of these identities; and the fathers' perceptio...
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This article describes how categories from the curriculum can play a central role in the interactional construction of students’ identities. Drawing on data from one ninth-grade English and history class across an academic year, the article describes an adolescent who was assigned and came to enact the identity of a disruptive outcast from the clas...
Article
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Learning takes place in many settings, but educational institutions foster both breadth and depth of learning. Different types of teaching make very different assumptions about what learning is.
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In "Resuscitating the Place of Educational Discourse in Anthropology," Bradley Levinson (1999) argues that cultural anthropology could benefit from research on education and that education could benefit from research on anthropology as well. He describes how contemporary cultural anthropologists, following a "cultural studies" focus on media, have...
Article
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One of constructionism's chief pragmatic goals is to facilitate relationships that have transformative potential. According to Kenneth Gergen, one important theoretical tool towards that end is relational theory, the construing of human behavior in terms of dialogic processes. We trace the meaning of 'dialogic' and 'transformative' through differen...
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Culturally relevant pedagogy uses students' home cultures as a resource, both to teach the standard curriculum more effectively and to develop students' pride in those home cultures. This article describes how culturally relevant pedagogy gets appropriated in practice by teachers and students. The second author designed and ran an ESL room for thre...
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Increasing numbers of Latinos are settling in parts of the US where few Latinos have lived before. Many of these diaspora Latinos are school-age children who do not yet speak English fluently. Although rural US educators often work hard to serve Latino diaspora schoolchildren, most rural schools do not provide enough support. This article describes...
Article
Noting that researchers rarely ask urban fathers about their perspectives and choices regarding fatherhood, this pilot study examined the experiences of urban fathers, focusing on their views of the challenges of fatherhood and how they accounted for both their irresponsible and their promising fathering behaviors; the study's larger goal will be u...
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Increasing numbers of Latinos (many immigrant, and some from elsewhere in the United States) are settling both temporarily and permanently in areas of the United States that have not traditionally been home to Latinos-for example, North Carolina, Maine, Georgia, Indiana, Arkansas, rural Illinois, and near resort communities in Colorado.' Enrique Mu...
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More and more Latinos are moving to areas of the US where few Latinos have settled before - a migration that has been called "the new Latino diaspora" (Hamann, 1999; Villenas, 1997). This paper describes an isolated community of about two hundred Latinos, located in a small rural Northern New England town that I call Havertown. When I knew them in...
Article
Teathers and students often adopt political and ethical positions as they discuss literature. Like novelists, they make their points through the voices of others.

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Projects (5)
Project
Wortham, S., Love-Jones, R., Peters, W., Morris, S., & García-Huidobro, J. C. (2020). Educating for Comprehensive Well-being. ECNU Review of Education, 3(3), 406-436. Full-text download link: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2096531120928448 Abstract Purpose: Educational approaches that advocate “well-being,” the “whole child,” “social and emotional learning,” “character,” and the like emphasize human development beyond the acquisition of knowledge and skills. These approaches vary widely in their views of human nature, their visions of a good life, and their prescriptions for educational practice. This article maps out heterogeneous contemporary approaches to “well-being” and related constructs, thereby allowing researchers, educators, and policymakers to understand the divergent assumptions made by the proliferating approaches to education that go beyond academics. Design/Approach/Methods: This article presents results from a 2-year project, which included interviews with advocates of different approaches and review of key literature about eleven educational approaches to “well-being,” the “whole child,” “social and emotional learning,” “character,” and similar noncognitive ends. Findings: The article argues that any educational approach to “well-being” and related constructs must respond to four questions: whether humans are bundles of discrete competencies or integrated wholes, what the appropriate relation is between individuals and society, the relative importance of instrumental and intrinsic goals, and the importance of an overarching purpose for one’s life. The analysis reviews how eleven contemporary approaches address these four questions. Originality/Value: Despite the global proliferation of divergent approaches to “well-being,” the “whole child,” “social and emotional learning,” “character,” and related constructs in education, there are no comprehensive frameworks for understanding the alternatives and their key assumptions. This article organizes the globally proliferating educational movements that promote “well-being,” making sense of a confusing set of alternatives. We also argue that any comprehensive approach to education that goes beyond academics must consider the four questions that we identify. Keywords: Character education, educational policy, social emotional learning, well-being, whole person Welcome to our journal homepage for more details: https://journals.sagepub.com/home/roe
Project
Shirley, D., Wortham, S., & Kim, D. (2020). The Quest for a Purpose to Encompass the Highest Moral Values: Introduction to the Special Issue. ECNU Review of Education, 3(3), 399-405. Full-text download link: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2096531120938388 After decades of focusing narrowly on measuring students’ academic attainment in literacy, mathematics, and science, educational systems have recently shifted their attention to the domain of student well-being. Even the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), source of the Programme in International Student Assessment (PISA) tests that focused worldwide attention on comparative achievement data, began in 2016 to publish comprehensive league tables of student well-being. Since then, nations, think tanks, and school systems have focused more and more on well-being. For most educators, this recognition that learning involves more than mastery of narrow academic content is long-overdue. Educators have seen that our young people suffer from rising rates of anxiety, depression, and a lack of purpose, and they generally welcome the newfound though belated recognition among policymakers that well-being matters. Educators are enthusiastically endorsing new strategies to improve student well-being in their classrooms and schools. Indeed, any system that neglects student well-being is increasingly seen as deficient in contemporary educational debates. Rather than displacing this movement, the current coronavirus epidemic is in many ways accelerating policymakers’ and educators’ focus on student well-being. But is all of the attention to well-being properly informed by educational research? Scholars have documented the large, heterogeneous set of approaches to well-being that are now being advocated (Ecological Approaches to Social Emotional Learning Laboratory, n.d.; Wortham et al., 2020). If we do not attend carefully to the many differences among proliferating approaches to well-being, could this well-intentioned effort suffer the same fate as the ill-advised “self-esteem movement” or the push toward “emotional intelligence,” which came to be seen as overly focused on fleeting emotional states of the individual, at the expense of a concern for the long-term flourishing of all? Welcome to our journal homepage for more details: https://journals.sagepub.com/home/roe