Panel Paper: Decision-Making and Educational Goods

Thursday, November 7, 2013 : 9:45 AM
Washington Ballroom (Westin Georgetown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Harry Brighouse, University of Wisconsin
This paper argues that educational policy should attend to the creation and distribution of educational goods, and offers a description of how that can be done. We define educational goods as the knowledge, skills, attitudes and dispositions that enable someone to flourish and to contribute appropriately to the flourishing of others. To help operationalize the concept of educational goods for measurement and decision-making purposes we break them down into five
categories related to the following capacities: the capacity for economic productivity; the capacity for democratic competence; the capacity to regard others as moral equals; the capacity for healthy personal relationships and the capacity for personal fulfillment. The distribution of these goods should be sensitive to three, sometimes conflicting, principles of educational justice;
equalizing educational goods; ensuring everyone has adequate educational goods, and prioritizing the long term prospects of the less advantaged.

We outline a procedure intended to  helps decision-makers evaluate alternatives:  having established what values are at stake they should look at the evidence concerning how well those values are realized, and how much better or worse feasible alternatives would realize those values in the circumstances. But educational goods and their distribution are not the only values at stake in many decisions about education, because those decisions can have collateral effects on the realization of other values. We identify some of the other values most likely to be salient in educational decision-making contexts, including, for example, parents’ interest, in order to provide an overall normative framework to guide both decision-making and empirical social science.