2019 Essay Contest Winners

Shannon Brick, co-1st place

Shannon Brick

Shannon is a PhD candidate in Philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. She works in moral and social epistemology as well as ethics more broadly. She also has strong secondary research interests in aesthetics and feminist philosophy – particularly feminist theories of relational autonomy. She is currently working on her dissertation, which develops an account of authenticity of persons. Shannon originally hails from Australia, where she completed her Undergraduate Degree and M.A. from Monash and Melbourne University respectively.

Paper Title: Moral-Epistemic Duties Amid Political Contestation

School teachers are charged with giving students many of the conceptual tools they will
need in order to be autonomous participants in the ethical community. Although there is some consensus as to what these tools are, there are many areas of the conceptual landscape where no such consensus exists. With respect to contested concepts, what are educators supposed to do? I argue that in some circumstances, teachers have a responsibility to teach content that is politically contested. This is because, despite their having a default responsibility to be responsive to the existence (or lack thereof) of public consensus and so not teach content that is politically contested, in non-ideal conditions like those that currently exist, teachers have a weightier responsibility to give students contested concepts when doing so is necessary for promoting hermeneutic justice. I argue that the social sciences provide an optimum setting in which educators can discharge this responsibility, without risking public or parental backlash and the moral and epistemic costs that are liable to follow hot on its heels. Rather than simply charge students with engaging with the extant state of public debate, however, teachers must first ensure a hermeneutically just playing field. This requires exposing students to the marginalized experiences that are relevant to specific contemporary discourses.

A full version of the paper is available on request; please contact sbrick@gradcenter.cuny.edu

Kathryn Joyce, co-1st place

Kathryn Joyce

Kathryn Joyce is a Ph.D. candidate in the philosophy department at UC San Diego. Her research focuses on social and political philosophy and the philosophy of education. She is especially interested in questions that lie at the intersection of social/political philosophy, moral psychology, and social epistemology. Kathryn is currently writing a dissertation on relational egalitarianism that analyzes its core concepts and develops an account of the nature and value of egalitarian relationships among members of society. She plans to extend this project by exploring what her account implies for education and educational justice. Her other recent work concerns normative and methodological issues related to evidence-based education policy and practice (links to published articles can be found here).Kathryn serves on the organizing committee for UC San Diego’s Summer Program for Women in Philosophy.

Paper Title: Prioritizing Disadvantaged Students in Principle and in Practice

U.S. education policy uses an evidence-based education model (US-EBE) to pursue two goals: (1) raise achievement in the U.S. overall by facilitating improvement among all students; (2) close achievement gaps between socially advantaged and disadvantaged groups by leveling-up disadvantaged students. I argue that US-EBE can advance eitherthe first goal orthe second goal but not both simultaneously as intended. This descriptive point raises a normative question: which goal should we pursue using US-EBE? This essay explores moral considerations that bear on this question, focusing on costs and benefits for students.I argue, provisionally, that we ought to use US-EBE to narrow gaps. Further, I argue that the costs associated with doing so are morally justifiable whereas those associated with the alternative are not.

A full version of the paper is available on request; please contact kejoyce@ucsd.edu.