School Choice and Social Justice

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9780198295860: School Choice and Social Justice
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School choice, the leading educational reform proposal in the English-speaking world, evokes extreme responses: its defenders present it as the saviour; its opponents as the deathnell of a fair educational system. Disagreement and vagueness about what constitutes social justice in education muddies the debate. The author, Mary Brigham, provides a theory of justice for education, arguing that justice requires that all children have a real opportunity to become autonomous persons, and that the state use a criterion of educational equality for deploying educational resources. Through systematic presentation of empirical evidence, the author argues that existing schemes do not fare well against the criterion of social justice, yet this need not impugn school choice. Brigham offers a school choice proposal that could implement social justice and explains why other essential educational reforms can be compatible with choice.

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Review:

Powerful, compelling book. British Journal of Educational Studies Presents a persuasive and lucid case that holds concrete implications for the formation of public policy in liberal democratic states ... a welcome and timely addition to the literature on liberal political theory and a real attempt to tackle a fundamental issue which is too often conveniently ignored by many other liberals. Political Studies This book draws together philosophical debate with policy analysis in a way that makes fascinating reading ... The poise of the discussion is such that a reasonable hearing is given to both sides of the argument ... This book has shown that there can be a third perspective in the debate over school choice, and, perhaps surprisingly in the current climate, one that is not born out of politics but out of a philosophical understanding of social justice. Sociology A refreshing contribution to critical discussion of the social impacts of school choice reforms. Sociology Brighouse's book is immensely useful in clarifying the value bases of public policy in education and will force readers to examine and ultimately refine their own assumptions about school choice. Choice

From the Author:

An eglitarian theory of justice is compatible with choice
I wrote this book out of a sense of frustration which the current debate on school choice. Proponents of choice are too often groundlessly optimistic about the workings of markets, and they almost always neglect the impact of choice on social justice. When they do consider the impact on social justice, the conception of social justice they use is usually simply indefensible: depending either on libertarian views about property rights, or authoritarian views about the rights of parents over their children.. Opponents are usually concerned with social justice, but too often they use the wrong conception of social justice, one which is indefensibly focussed on the public good rather than on the vital individual interests of children. My diagnosis of this is that left wing thinking about education has become infused with communitarian and post-modernist views about justice, both of which are deeply mistaken, and very unhealthy. So I wanted to counter the public good-style justifications of education with an individualist theory of social justice in education, which gives proper regard to the interests of children; and at the same time explore whether school choice could be made compatible with social justice. About 2/3rds of the book is devoted to the philosophical task of elaborating and defending a theory of justice in education: one which places educational equality and the interest of every person in a real opportunity for personal autonomy at the centre of thinking about education policy. The rest of the book evaluates both the theoretical arguments for choice and the real world evidence on choice schemes, in the light of this theory of social justice. In the final chapter I argue for a carefully regulated school choice scheme, and show that many of the practical objections to choice could be overcome. Although I defend a very strongly egalitarian theory of social justice in education, my openness to the use of markets will discomfort most orthodox liberal defenders of public education; and despite my circumspect friendliness to markets, right wingers will be outraged by theory of justice and support for government regulation. So I don't expect anyone to be happy with the book: but I do hope that it will force people to rethink their basic assumptions, and perhaps contribute something useful to the public debate.

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9780199257874: School Choice and Social Justice

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ISBN 10:  0199257876 ISBN 13:  9780199257874
Publisher: OUP Oxford, 2002
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