Name: Jeffrey Morgan
Department: Philosophy & Political Science
Contact information: Jeffrey.Morgan@ufv.ca . Tel: 604-864-4684
Current research program:
My current research project is in the field of philosophy of education, specifically on the ethical implications of school choice. By ‘school choice’ I mean the possibility for families to choose different schools for their children. I am concerned mainly with primary and secondary schooling and I focus on the Canadian context, although I am drawing comparisons with other countries, such as the UK, New Zealand and Singapore.
There are numerous school options in Canada: we have public schools and independent schools. Within public schools we have comprehensive schools designed to meet every child’s educational needs, but we also have schools with distinctive goals, such as language immersion, fine arts or traditional schools. There are also distinctive programs in public schools, including academically enriched programs and programs designed to meet the needs of promising athletes, who need plenty of time to train.
Independent schools have a variety of forms, including religious or faith-based schools and selective university preparatory schools. In addition, there are some independent schools designed to educate children with special needs, including severe learning disabilities. A further form of school choice is home-schooling. There is evidence that suggests that subscription to choice schools is growing in Canada; my concern is on the ethical legitimacy of school choice.
First, it should be noted that school choice is unavoidable. Even banning all independent schools would not eliminate school choice because parents choose their residence partly by looking at the quality of the local school. Unless we somehow eliminated the ‘catchment area’ model — by bussing large numbers of kids away from their neighborhoods — we are stuck with some forms of school choice. I believe that there are, furthermore, good reasons to embrace school choice. The major reason is that there are numerous legitimate conceptions of education. This educational pluralism means that it is arbitrary to force a single conception of education on all kids. But the choices that we currently have are ethically problematic for a variety of reasons.
The first problem is known as equality of educational opportunity. School choice necessarily makes children unequal in their educational opportunities. Some kids will have opportunities to lower class sizes, better facilities and more able classmates than other kids. Whether this is legitimate is part of my concern.
One further trouble with independent schooling is that, in a world where there is widespread poverty, it is questionable whether the use of scarce resources on privileged education for some children is defensible.
Other problems arise when we consider religious schools that might indoctrinate children. This is probably a violation of the child’s rights. But even faith-based schools that don’t indoctrinate might inhibit a child’s opportunities for democratic citizenship, by limiting her interaction with people of diverse faiths or cultures. We develop our capacities for public reason through interaction with others. We must remember, however, that religious commitment is a major element in family solidarity.
My work is supported by a Social Studies and Humanities Research Council standard research grant, as well as by UFV. I am writing a book to discuss the results of my investigation.
|Name of student||Duties / Activities|
|Chesley Donatelli||Survey of current independent schools in Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Singapore and Japan.|
|Sat Pander||Assistance with development of school observation research protocol.|
|Amber Warnat||Survey of current policy on school choice in all provinces in Canada.|
Morgan, Jeffrey (2009). Mathew Clayton’s Justice and legitimacy in upbringing (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006) Studies in Philosophy and Education 28: 79-89.
Morgan, Jeffrey (2006). Leisure, Contemplation and Leisure Education. Ethics and Education,1 (2): 133-47.
Morgan, Jeffrey (2005). Children’s Rights and the Parental Authority to Instill a Specific Value System. Essays in Philosophy. 7(1)