Justice in Schools

June 2014

Educators are often passionate about achieving social justice both through their own efforts and by teaching their students to pursue social justice themselves. But their understanding of what “social justice” means, what principles it encapsulates, or how these principles might apply to particular educational contexts is usually vague or even incoherent. As a result, teachers often confront dilemmas of justice that demand real-time action, but find themselves responding in ways that they view as inadequate and at times even shameful. Despite writing obsessively about justice for the past half century, political theorists offer surprisingly little help as they tend to focus on idealized circumstances and basic questions of institutional design and rights, rather than on complex, non-ideal circumstances and more everyday dilemmas arising within schools. The Justice in Schools workshop is intended to right this wrong by seeding new work that will both help educators make better (more coherent and more just) decisions and push theorists toward new questions in educational ethics and non-ideal theory. It will do so by bringing together political and educational theorists, social scientists (particularly in education and sociology), and practicing educators (teachers and administrators) to think about three normative case studies of dilemmas of justice in schools. The workshop will ideally lead to a collaboratively published book or guest-edited journal (scholarly or popular) that includes case studies, commentaries, and reflections on further directions for the field. It will also ideally spawn new work in this area.