William Damon

Senior Fellow
Research Team: 
Awards and Honors:
National Academy of Education
American Academy of Arts and Sciences

William Damon is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, the director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence, and a professor of education at Stanford University.

Damon's research explores how people develop integrity and purpose in their work, family, and civic life. Damon's current work focuses on vocational, civic and entrepreneurial purpose among the young and on purpose in families and schools. He examines how young Americans can be educated to become devoted citizens and successful entrepreneurs. Damon's work has been used in professional training programs in fields such as journalism, law, and business and in character and civic education programs in grades K–12.

One of Damon’s recent books is Failing Liberty 101 (Hoover Press, 2011). Other recent books include The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life (2008) and Taking Philanthropy Seriously (2006); Damon’s earlier books include Bringing in a New Era in Character Education (Hoover Press, 2002); Greater Expectations: Overcoming the Culture of Indulgence in Our Homes and Schools (1995); and The Moral Child (1992).

Damon is editor in chief of The Handbook of Child Psychology, fifth and sixth editions (1998 and 2006). He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Education and a fellow of the American Educational Research Association.

Damon has received awards and grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Thrive Foundation for Youth, and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Before coming to Stanford in 1997, Damon was University Professor and director of the Center on the Study of Human Development at Brown University. From 1973 to 1989, Damon served in several academic and administrative positions at Clark University. In 1988, he was Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Puerto Rico, and in 1994–95 he was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

Damon received his bachelor's degree from Harvard College and his PhD in developmental psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. He is married and has three children.

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Recent Commentary

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Tomorrow’s Child

by William Damonvia Hoover Digest
Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Students need purpose. And there’s never been a better time to teach them that purpose derives from love of family, neighbors, and country.

Analysis and Commentary

Restoring Purpose And Patriotism To American Education

by William Damonvia Flypaper (Fordham Education Blog)
Wednesday, March 11, 2020

As any teacher will tell you, motivation is key to learning. Highly motivated students will find ways to acquire knowledge and skills even in suboptimal circumstances. Students who have little interest in learning will be hard to teach no matter how well furbished the school.

In the News

What We’re Watching: Education 20/20 — William Damon & Robert P. George

mentioning William Damonvia Education Next
Wednesday, March 20, 2019

On March 26, 2019 at 4 pm, Fordham and Hoover will host two speakers on schools, patriotism, and illiberalism. William Damon, director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence, will argue that schools must foster in their students a sense of purpose and a positive attachment to their society.

Analysis and Commentary

They Do Care: An Interview With William Damon And Anne Colby On Moral Development

by William Damon, Anne Colby, Pamela Ebstyne Kingvia PhilPapers
Monday, September 24, 2018

What follows is an interview with William Damon and Anne Colby, pioneers in the fields of moral psychology and education. Throughout their careers, they have studied, moral identity, moral ideals, positive youth development, purpose, good work, vocation, character development in higher education, and professional responsibility. In their words, they are interested in the ‘best of humankind’—not only the competencies, but also the character necessary for living a good life—not only for the sake of the individual, but also for society. They have received numerous academic and civic awards and honors.

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In the Spirit of Friendship

by William Damonvia Hoover Digest
Friday, October 21, 2016

Benjamin Franklin knew social ties would create the ideas to energize his brave, new society. The Hoover Institution is helping to rekindle that bright idea. 

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To Gratitude

by William Damonvia Hoover Digest
Monday, July 11, 2016

In a time of sound and fury and presidential politics, a word on being grateful.

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Ben Franklin’s Guide To Making Friends

by William Damonvia Defining Ideas
Thursday, April 28, 2016

As social isolation spreads, a new movement looks to early American history for a solution. 

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Giving Thanks In Hard Times

by William Damonvia Defining Ideas
Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Americans have plenty to be grateful for, like living in a country that cherishes liberty and opportunity.

Analysis and Commentary

Honesty Can Be Cultivated, Despite Cynicism

by William Damon, Anne Colbyvia The New York Times
Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Honesty, like all virtues, requires cultivation. The first rule of cultivating honesty is to believe in truthfulness; the second is to practice it until it becomes habitual; the third is to resist life’s frequent temptations to gain advantage through deception.

Classroom students

Special: Moe, Evers, and Damon on the John Batchelor Show

by Terry M. Moe, William Damon, Williamson M. Eversvia John Batchelor Show
Friday, May 9, 2014

In conjunction with a special live taping of the John Batchelor Show at the Hoover Spring Retreat, John Batchelor and Mary Kissel of the Wall Street Journal hosted a discussion on education reform, featuring Hoover senior fellows Terry Moe and William Damon and Hoover research fellows Williamsom Evers.