School Choice and Social Justice

By Harry Brighouse | Go to book overview

9 School Choice for Social Justice?

The Proposal

Surveying the evidence on actual choice schemes suggests that it should be possible to design a choice scheme that implements reasonably well the fundamental values that I have argued should govern the design of educational institutions. There have been several attempts to outline such a scheme. I shall use here the most detailed such attempt, offered by Herbert Gintis—and incorporated, in less detail, in his and Samuel Bowles's cluster of economic proposals to 'recast egalitarianism'—as a skeleton for a more elaborate proposal. Gintis's main aim is to design a choice scheme that implements educational equality, so I shall supplement his proposals with more speculative suggestions drawn from my own tentative choice proposal, and I shall also add detail to other aspects of his proposal where it seems necessary. 1 Using my own and Gintis's work I shall show how a series of standard practical objections to school choice can be met or deflected, and shall then look into serious difficulties with accommodating the values of autonomy and educational equality: suggesting, however, that these difficulties will be encountered with differing degrees of seriousness by any system of delivery. I shall then look at a new kind of commodification objection, and finally consider very briefly some of the alternative directions in education policy.

Bowles and Gintis are primarily concerned with offering a reform that will enhance both efficiency and equality at the same time. They point out that schooling constitutes a large part of the economy, and that if the preferences of consumers are frustrated in this area of the economy, that constitutes

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