Dilemmas of Justice in Schools

CMEI Colloquium
Longfellow Hall, Harvard Graduate School of Education
February 25, 2014

Educators and policy makers are responsible for enacting justice, but often face situations in which there are no truly just options because of larger contextual injustices. In many situations, educators and policy makers must act. In so doing, however, they may find themselves further perpetuating injustice. What options are open to teachers, principals, and policy makers in these situations? How can they best be prepared to identify, reason, and take action about these dilemmas of educational injustice? What principles should guide this analysis?

Speaker Biography:

Meira Levinson, co-convener of CMEI, is a normative political philosopher who writes about civic education, multiculturalism, youth empowerment, and educational ethics. In doing so, she draws upon scholarship from multiple disciplines as well as her eight years of experience teaching in the Atlanta and Boston Public Schools. Her most recent books include the co-edited Making Civics Count (Harvard Education Press, 2012) and No Citizen Left Behind (Harvard University Press, 2012). The latter book shows how schools can help tackle a civic empowerment gap that is as shameful and antidemocratic as the academic achievement gap targeted by No Child Left Behind.  Levinson has been awarded a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship to support her newest project, on "Justice in Schools." In this work, she combines philosophical analysis and school-based case studies to illuminate the complex dimensions of evaluating, achieving, and teaching justice in schools. The project is intended to give educators tools for making just decisions in their own practice, and also to push political theorists to develop theories of justice that are robust enough to address complex school-based dilemmas. This project, like her previous research, reflects Levinson's commitment to achieving productive cross-fertilization— without loss of rigor —among scholarship, policy, and practice.