Authority and Autonomy in Sex Education


Lisa Andersen, Juilliard
Kathleen Elliott, UW–Whitewater
Paula McAvoy, UW–Madison


Nancy Kendall, UW–Madison

Tuesday, March 6, 2018, 12:00–1:15 pm
Educational Sciences Room 259, West Johnson Street

During this interactive session, panelists will offer historical, contemporary, and philosophic perspectives on the central question: Should sex education be student-centered? Drawing upon examples of peer education, GSA clubs (original name: Gay-Straight Alliance), and teacher centered approaches, the panel will highlight tensions between adult authority over the curriculum and promoting the development of student autonomy.

Authority and Autonomy in Sex Education

Educational Goods: Values, Evidence, and Decision-Making


Susanna Loeb, Barnett Family Professor of Education, Stanford University
Harry Brighouse, Dickson Bascom Professor of the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Tuesday, February 20, 2018, 12:30-1:45 pm
Educational Sciences Room 253, 1025 West Johnson Street

We spend a lot of time arguing about how schools might be improved. But we rarely take a step back to ask what we as a society should be looking for from education—what exactly should those who make decisions be trying to achieve?

Susanna Loeb and Harry Brighouse will talk about their new book, written with Adam Swift and Helen Ladd, Educational Goods, which offers a way of combining rigorous thinking about values and careful consideration of evidence when making decisions about, and within, schools.

Educational Goods: Values, Evidence, and Decision-Making event

Rigor Versus Use: What Evidence Helps You Get the Educational Outcomes You Aim For?


Nancy Cartwright, UCSD, Durham University


Eric Grodsky, UW-Madison, Sociology and WCER
Karen Bogenschneider, UW-Madison, SOHE, Emerita

Thursday, February 1, 2018
3:00-4:30 pm, Wisconsin Idea Room, 159 Education Building

Consulting the evidence should surely help in making better predictions about educational outcomes. That’s the core idea that makes evidence–informed policy so appealing. But what kinds of evidence can most help? Current orthodoxy majors on rigor: We want evidence that is rigorously established; we do not want to build our policies on shaky grounds. On this basis, RCTs have become widely accepted as gold standard sources of evidence for effectiveness in education and elsewhere. But there is often a trade-off between how rigorously a result can be established and how useful it is for achieving our goals. Nancy Cartwright will discuss this trade-off in the case of educational policy, and child welfare more generally. She will explain what kind of knowledge can be produced by RCTs and how policymakers can, and often do, go wrong when they fail to understand exactly what it is that has been rigorously established with an RCT; and she will offer some suggestions about how evidence can be more wisely used to make policy decisions and what other kinds of evidence this might require. Eric Grodsky and Karen Bogenschneider will comment.

Rigor Versus Use event

Morality and Justice in Higher Education

A conversation with Harry Brighouse

April 10, 2017
12-1:00pm, 198 Education Building

Join WISCAPE for a conversation with with Harry Brighouse, professor of philosophy, about the award-winning book he co-edited, The Aims of Higher Education: Problems of Morality and Justice.

Topics of discussion will include whether a liberal arts education has social value; the aim of developing students into critical thinkers; and the ethical issues and pedagogical questions arising from recent criticisms, particularly from legislators, that faculty at highly selective universities are disproportionately liberal.

Event Flyer (PDF)

Morality and Justic in Higher Education

Inequality and the Public University

Thursday, October 20, 2016
4–5:15 pm, Wisconsin Idea Room, 141 Education Building

Laura Hamilton and Nancy Kendall will each draw upon their research and experiences to answer: How does inequality get reproduced within the university? What, if anything, can universities do to undo, or mitigate, these trends?

Join our public discussion, participate in small group conversations and exchange ideas with the featured speakers.


Laura T. Hamilton, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of California-Merced
Author of Parenting to a Degree and co-author of Paying for the Party
Download Dr. Hamilton's comments

Nancy Kendall, Associate Professor Educational Policy Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Author of The Sex Education Debates and co-principal investigator of “Constructing Affordability: How Institutional and Relational Contexts Affect Retention of Undergraduates from Low-Income Families.”


Jennifer Morton, Assistant Professor Philosophy, City College of New York

Event Flyer (PDF)

Inequity and the Public University

The Right to a Quality Public College Education

March 4 and 5, 2016

In the spring, the Center hosted an invited conference in which participants were asked to think about the following questions:

  • What constitutes a quality public college education?
  • How, in a world of finite resources, should a quality public college education be distributed?
  • How it should be financed?
  • How should public institutions change in the light of the answers to those questions?

Participants were asked to read as set of materials prior to the conference, and the days were designed around a series of discussion prompts.  In addition, we heard presentations from Laura Hamilton, author of Parenting to a Degree: How Family Matters for College Women’s Success; Michael McPherson co-author of, Lesson Plan: An Agenda for Change in American Higher Education; and Nancy Kendall and Matt Wolfgram, who discussed their on-going study, “Constructing Affordability: How Institutional and Relational Contexts Affect Retention of Undergraduates from Low-Income Families.”

If you are interested in learning more about this event, we have made the framing statement and the reading list with discussion questions available.

Framing Statement (PDF)

Reading and Discussion Questions (PDF)

Responsiveness as a Democratic Virtue

October 16 and 17, 2015

This fall, the Center hosted an invited conference on the topic, Responsiveness as a Democratic Virtue. Our purpose was to bring together a small group of philosophers, social scientists, and educators to discuss what the virtue of responsiveness is, what value it has for democratic life, and whether (and how) this value should be promoted in schools.

Our discussions began with this starting definition of responsiveness:
Being responsive (primarily to others, but we might also think about being responsive to the non-human world) involves being open to being moved or transformed by what others convey and do, especially in the course of the shared activity of living together (which includes working out the terms by which we live together).

This was not a meeting in which participants presented papers; instead, our hope was that focused discussion on the theme would inspire new work to be developed over the course of the next year. This same group will meet again in the fall of 2016 to share and discuss progress.

If you are interested in learning more about this event, we have made the framing statement and the reading list with discussion questions available.

Framing Statement (PDF)
Readings and Discussion Questions (DOCX)

The Ethics of Educating: Bridging the Ideal and Non-Ideal Divide

Jennifer Morton, Assistant Professor of Philosophy City College of New York

Thursday, April 9, 2015, 1–2:30 p.m.
Helen C. White Hall, Room 6191, 600 N. Park St.

Jennifer Morton is an assistant professor of philosophy at the City College of New York and will be a 2015-2016 Laurance S. Rockefeller Faculty Fellow at the Princeton Center for Human Values. Her areas of research are philosophy of action, moral philosophy, philosophy of education and political philosophy. She was born and grew up in Lima, Peru.

In her talk, Morton will argue that the educator, as a representative of the political community, is tasked with two aims—one more ideal than the other. The first is nurturing students with the skills and knowledge they need for the non-ideal world as they will find it. The second is educating future citizens for a more ideal future. She argues that these two aims lead educators to confront important dilemmas and suggests a possible resolution that is of interest not only to educators, but also to political theorists interested in the divide between ideal and non-ideal theory.

Jennifer Morton

Should Teachers Share Their Politics with Students?

Monday, March 23, 2015, 5:30–7:30 p.m.
Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, DeLuca Forum
330 North Orchard Street, Madison, WI

5:30–6 p.m. Welcome Reception
6–7:30 p.m. Presentation, Discussion and Case Study

"When (if ever) should teachers share their political views with their students?"

The Center for Ethics and Education, a new project of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research within the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Education, invites you to a discussion focused on the ethical dilemmas teachers confront when introducing controversial and political issues to their students.


Diana Hess, professor of curriculum and instruction, UW-Madison School of Education; and Paula McAvoy, program director Center for Ethics and Education, Wisconsin Center for Education Research, co-authors, The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education

Tony Laden, co-principal investigator Center for Ethics and Education, professor of philosophy, University of Illinois at Chicago

Katie Jones, teacher, Malcolm Shabazz City High School


Harry Brighouse, co-principal invesigator Center for Ethics and Education, professor of philosophy and educational policy studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Political Classroom