Mission & Vision

The Center for Ethics and Education aims to foster and support work that brings the tools and perspectives of contemporary moral and political philosophy to bear on concrete problems that arise in addressing problems of education practice and policy. Some such problems, like issues of efficiency and fairness in the distribution of educational resources among different socio-economic, ethnic, and racial groups, are long-standing; others, like the use of neurological data (such as brain scans) in diagnosing and “treating” students’ educational difficulties, are novel. Issues arise at different levels of decision making. Districts and principals, and sometimes teachers, decide how to structure instruction in inclusive classrooms, something that directly affects the daily work of individual teachers; citizens and voters, and State and Federal policymakers make decisions about whether states should support the growth of charter schools. Educational policy and practice provide rich material for philosophical reflection, and policymakers and practitioners would benefit from the arguments and insights provided by the kind of scholarly work we are proposing to support.

We believe this work is difficult: it is best done when we can combine deep institutional and practical knowledge of educational policy-making and the daily work of teaching with the analytical skills and intellectual background afforded by education in moral and political philosophy. So our central aim is to help scholars develop the relevant knowledge and skills, and bring the scholars, practitioners, and decision makers—who each have something to contribute to developing such work—into fruitful conversation with one another.

Using funding from a generous grant from the Spencer Foundation, we hope to expand the scope and quality of work in this important field. Success will require engaging over time with several more-or-less distinct segments of the philosophical community, including:

  • Encouraging the work of those scholars of moral and political philosophy who have consistently done excellent work on educational issues;
  • Encouraging deeper engagement with education among moral and political philosophers who may be favorably disposed to the subject but have not worked extensively on it.
  • Encouraging the development of graduate students toward scholarship that is engaged in normative thinking about educational issues.

At this time, the Center for Ethics and Education will be focused on the following activities:

  1. Funding grants to scholars interested in pursuing work of the type we just described. See our Research Grants page for more information.
  2. Working with the center’s fellows to host a series of small conferences around particular topics in education. See our Staff and Events pages.
  3. Hosting talks and events in the greater Madison and Chicago areas that engage the public in discussions about educational policy and practice. See our Events page.
  4. Developing programming for graduate students to support their philosophic development. See our Graduate Programming page for more information.

We also welcome engagement with school districts, policy makers, teachers, and interested others. Please contact Paula McAvoy if you would like to be notified via email about the center’s events, or if you have ideas about how we might be able to serve or collaborate with the wider education community.

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