The Ethics of Pandering in Boston Public Schools’ School Assignment Plan
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CitationLevinson, M. (March 2015). The Ethics of Pandering in Boston Public Schools’ School Assignment Plan. Theory and Research in Education 13(1).
AbstractHow can access to public elementary schools of variable quality be justly distributed within a school district? Two reasonable criteria are (a) that children should have equal opportunity to attend high-quality schools; and (b) school assignment policies should foster an overall increase in the number of high-quality schools. This article analyzes Boston Public Schools’ (BPS) new school assignment plan in light of these criteria. It shows that BPS’ plan violates equal opportunity by giving middle-class families privileged access to existing high-quality schools. BPS arguably panders to more-advantaged families, however, in order to pull them into the system and deploy their economic, political, and social capital to increase the total number of high-quality schools. Is this ethically defensible? To answer this question, we need to develop an ethical theory of pandering: of privileging the interests and preferences of already unjustly privileged actors because the consequences tend to benefit everyone. Such a theory will need to be ethically pluralistic and weighted along a contextually sensitive continuum, rather than rendered in all-or-nothing terms.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:12991704
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