Monday, July 30, 2007

The Importance of Education

Last term I taught a visiting student interested in egalitarianism and education and now I'm teaching a girl at St Hugh's Summer School who's interested in politics and education. I'm increasingly finding it an interesting field as well, and think when it comes to post-doc research proposals I may well want to do something in the field of education.

In the meantime, below I copy the annotated reading suggestions I gave for next week's tutorial, should anyone be interested. I notice that, since writing it early this afternoon, Mary Warnock is back in the news.

A. Gutmann ‘What’s the Use of Going to School? The Problem of Education in Utilitarianism and Rights Theories’ in B. Williams and A. Sen (eds.) (1982) Utilitarianism and Beyond
Argues that education should be about equipping children for future freedom, rather than serving ‘utilitarian’ goals, i.e. promoting happiness or usefulness according to current standards.

M. Saito (2003) ‘Amartya Sen's Capability Approach to Education: A Critical Exploration’ Journal of Philosophy of Education 37:1 17–33
M. Walker (2005) ‘Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach and Education’ Educational Action Research 13:1 103-110
Amartya Sen argues that rather than looking simply at people’s income or achievement (which he terms ‘functionings’) we should look at capabilities – what people are free and able to achieve. He employs the ‘capabilities approach’ in looking at economic development and inequality, but these two articles seek to relate the insights to education.

M. Warnock (1998) An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Ethics ‘introduction’ p14ff and pp.58-63
Baroness Warnock was part of a House of Lords committee that looked at education policy in the UK in the 1970s. These few pages briefly set out how she thought of the problem and justify her stance that it is important to devote resources to bring about small improvements in the worst off.
If you can’t find that, I assume her thoughts are developed at longer length in M. Warnock (1978)
Meeting Special Educational Needs: A Brief Guide (though I haven’t read this and can’t say which parts are most useful)

M. Walzer (1983) Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality chapter 8
Walzer’s broader argument is that all goods should be distributed according to their own internal logic or standards – so political office should go to the persuasive or charismatic leader, not simply the person with the most money. (It’s generally an argument that not everything should be subject to monetary exchange, since the market corrupts the meaning of others goods). Chapter eight addresses implications for education, arguing that schools are for learning, so should be willing to teach anyone willing and able to learn.

A. Brown (2006) ‘Equality of Opportunity for Education: One-off or Lifelong?’ Journal of Philosophy of Education 40:1 63–84
This is about who should pay for adult education – should the state subsidize those that failed to make the most of the chance they had as children? I include it as it may relate to the drop-outs we talked about, or challenge your focus on the 2-20 age range rather than life-long learning…

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