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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Kick the Cap

Behind the scenes (and out in the hallway) at the Statehouse charter school hearing…


statehouseAnd that’s a wrap, folks! After nine hours, and thousands of pages of testimony concerning 35 different pieces of legislation—35!—this week’s marathon hearing on the state and future of charter schools in the Bay State had finally reached its end. But still, the question lingered: had anyone actually learned anything? It might surprise you to learn that my answer is an unabashed *Yes.* In fact, I learned quite a lot.
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Students Say the Darndest Things

From the impact of school closures to the perils of an all-charter system, Boston students seem to know a lot more than the adult interests…  

WestieIt’s sad when adult interests decide to close schools 🙁 Which is why I took it upon myself to be the bearer of great news to the students protesting at last week’s School Committee meeting. So your old schools are going out of business. Lots of shiny high-performing seats are headed your way! And even greater, those high-performing seats turn out to be even higher performing than we thought. But there was a rub. These students turned out to be, well, educated on the topics at hand. From the impact of school closures to the perils of an all-charter school system, the students seemed to know a whole lot more than, say, this guy. What do you say we listen to them?
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Charter Cap ‘n Gown

That path to college turns out to be exceptionally narrow…

hats‘Tis the season to celebrate our boy and girl graduates, reader. And in Massachusetts, aka *the Achievement State,* what better way to do just that than by raising the cap on excellence itself with a bold vote to hoist the cap on charter schools? Presto! Like that, the path to college and career readiness just got wider, and with nary a union laborer or detail cop in sight. But like a graduation party gone bad, this story too comes with an unwelcome guest: facts. It turns out that the number of students—particularly boys—who actually graduate from Boston’s charter high schools is minuscule. In fact, students at Boston’s six charter high schools are no more likely to graduate than their public school peers.  Continue reading →

Arne Does Boston

Behind this week’s non-story is an interesting story…

What a week, reader! The excellence express rolled into the Bay State, carrying some seriously career-ready cargo—none other than Arne Duncan himself. What do you mean you didn’t know anything about it??? Now ordinarily this is the point at which I would lambaste you for eschewing excellence in favor of conducting your own race to the bottom of the wine box. But you’re off the hook. You see, almost no one knew that Arne was in town this week as his visit garnered nary an inch of newsprint. Which seems a little, well, odd, given that the battle over the Liftin O’ the Charter Cap is reaching its acme. Tin foil at the ready, reader. It’s time for another edition of *the story behind the story.*  Continue reading →