School Choice and Social Justice

By Harry Brighouse | Go to book overview

1 Liberal Theory and Education Policy

Political Philosophy and Education Policy

A book like this stands in some need of justification. It is a work of political philosophy that attends closely to a question firmly on the public political agenda. It is, for the most part, conducted ahistorically and at a high level of abstraction, and it is only in about one-third of the book that I directly apply the philosophical findings to education policy. Political philosophers may be made uneasy by that third of the book, preferring in general to espouse and defend political principles without considering the messy business of how they are applied in the real world. Educationists, and non-philosophers generally, may be discomforted by the rest of the book, especially its ahistorical aspect, perhaps thinking that, as one of my critics has put it, 'policies and philosophies have to be understood in relation to the appropriate social, political and economic contexts'. 1

When I started reading about education policy I was dismayed by two recurrent features of the literature: the lack of clarity on all sides about what counted as social justice in education, and why; and the paucity of influence that the egalitarian liberalism, which, quite rightly in my view, predominates in political philosophy, has had on theorizing about education. The two features are connected: if egalitarian liberalism had more influence there would be more clarity and accuracy about what constitutes social justice in education. I would resist the implication that people who work on education theory and policy are to blame for these deficiencies: until quite recently very little work in analytical political philosophy has addressed educational issues in ways that are accessible and directly relevant to policy issues. I hope that this book will offer a much clearer view of what constitutes social justice in education, as well as a series of arguments for that conception of social justice. In doing so, I hope it will help

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