If You Invoke Rawls, You Best Come Correct

Boston’s opinionator-in-chief Scot Lehigh invokes philosopher John Rawls to make the case for Question 2. But Lehigh is out of his league, says the Edulosopher, and his argument fails the Rawls ‘test,’ conceptually and substantively…

By Jacob Fay, aka the Edulosopher
Rawls.jpg (695×900)In a recent Boston Globe opinion column, Scot Lehigh invoked philosopher John Rawls to make an ethical argument in favor of Question 2. Using Rawls’s concept of the *veil of ignorance,* a thought experiment intended to help determine the moral principles of a just society, Lehigh tries to make the case that opponents of Question 2 are motivated by self-interest. Lehigh’s argument fails for two reasons. First, his argument actually doesn’t determine whether we should support or oppose Question 2. Second, a genuinely Rawlsian perspective would require asking very different questions than the one that Lehigh proposes: What if your kids were stuck in a poorly performing schools? Put more bluntly, Lehigh’s argument fails both conceptually and substantively.

As I read it, there are four steps to Lehigh’s argument. I have recreated them below, changing some of his language, but not the meaning:

  1. Nobody wants their own children to be stuck in *poorly urban performing schools.*
  2. Charter schools provide better educational opportunities for systemically-disadvantaged youth of color.
  3. Question 2 will not affect communities that already have good schools.
  4. Thus, everyone should support Question 2.

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