JUSTICE, MORALITY AND EDUCATION

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1 JUSTICE, MORALITY AND EDUCATION

2 Also by Les Brown GENERAL PHILOSOPHY IN EDUCATION AIMS OF EDUCATION

3 JUSTICE, MORALITY AND EDUCATION A New Focus in Ethics in Education LesBrown M MACMILLAN

4 Leslie Melville Brown 1985 Softcover reprint of the hardcover 1st edition All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission. No paragraph of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1956 (as amended). Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. First published 1985 Published by THE MACMILLAN PRESS LTD Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 2XS and London Companies and representatives throughout the world British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Brown, Les Justice, morality and education. 1. Education-Moral and ethical aspects I. Title 370'1 LB880.B74/ ISBN ISBN (ebook) DOI /

5 Especially to my wife. And also, with affection and compassion, to our grandchildren- Andrew, John and Pennyand to all other children the world over: that in their respective life prospects fundamental justice may prevail.

6 Contents Preface Acknowledgements ix XV PART I EDUCATION, JUSTICE AND MORALITY: BASIC CONCEPTIONS AND UNDERLYING PRINCIPLES 1 Education and Justice 2 Morality 3 Rights and Duties PART II PRACTICAL INTERLUDE 4 Practical Deliberations 5 Practical Applications PART III SOCIAL JUSTICE: STATE-INDIVIDUAL RELATIONS 6 Philosophical Perspectives 7 Practical Perspectives 8 Social Justice Reflections and Conclusion Notes and References Select Bibliography Subject Index Author Index vii

7 Preface The general purpose of this book is to offer an ethical basis for making independent moral judgements. For teachers and students of education these may relate frequently to educational problems and situations, but moral judgements have, and need to have, a much wider application than to any particular professional area. The specific purpose is to provide rational grounds for explaining injustices and immorality in education, such as inequalities in educational opportunity, to counter bland and unsupported value assertions. When we come to reflect on it, many of us for much of our lives are apt to make summary value judgements without clear supporting reasons- though taking for granted that such clear reasons are never difficult to summon up when needed. Some engaged in scholarly or pseudo-scholarly pursuits are apt to do the same, declaring their points of view in value statements without explaining them. Why do we claim so confidently that inequality of educational opportunity is wrong? Basically what we seem to have in mind is that all should have equal opportunities because all of us are equal, but this justification is inadequate as it stands- as we shall see- requiring us to examine, among other things, what we mean by 'equal'. Before we can give a satisfactory answer to this question we need to come to grips with what we mean in a fundamental sense by justice, morality and education, and when we do, we find that the three are interrelated in such a way as to make the answer surprisingly simple. As for the larger purpose, we establish a basis of understanding of some of the major ethical issues that arise as we consider what we mean by morality, insisting on the need for a rational justification of any ethical position we may take, and illustrating with one such possible position. Returning to the specific purpose, we show that justice, morality and education can each be reduced to elemental meanings, and that no substantive variations of these elemental meanings can alter cases of injustice in education in their conspicuous social manifestations. This method allows us to establish firmer justifications for alleged injustices in education than any which rely solely on value declaraix

8 X Preface tions, such as may arise spontaneously from sociological evidence of social disadvantage, or in the assertions of ideologues who may hold their values to be axiomatic or self-justifying. Although the conjunction of justice, morality and education in their elemental meanings may indicate that it is wrong that some children should begin life's competition at a relative disadvantage, and that this disadvantage should be compounded, in some cases, throughout the years of formal schooling and beyond, it would be an error to interpret our standpoint as egalitarian. Any tendency toward a doctrinaire egalitarianism which assumes that all can be made equalor approximately so- by some means such as a common curriculum, challenges the significant achievements in intellectual and aesthetic culture of civilized societies which have depended upon the pursuit of excellence by a few. Any implication of the practicability of a general levelling would be as well a simple misunderstanding of the nature of education, which cannot ignore the needs of each individual as a developing person. We have no wish to use conceptual analysis as an end in itself. Analysis is used only to bring to the surface the irreducible, noncontradictory meanings of the three major terms of our title, so that if we may not presume to steer a course by them from the beginning, at least we may use them and test them as fixed and stable references whenever we need to. In contrast to these constants or fixed points as we perceive them to be in our conceptual firmament, there are many substantive expressions which revolve in planetary variations around the fundamental notions. The Socratic injunction to examine our words is thus profitable, at times, in the development of an entire structure of thought. Education, justice and morality are not as self-evident as we may have thought prior to examining them. Confidence in the particular interpretation of the elemental notions we have offered comes from their use in many different circumstances throughout the book, and their retrospective examination in the final chapter. This does not put them beyond the need for critical appraisal by others: criticism is indeed invited, and it is possible that some may have grounds for rather different fixed references. If they do they have to justify them, as we have justified ours, with reasons, and in a way that takes account of fundamental ethical understandings. Any position which offers reasons for holding views about injustices in educational situations must be taken as superior to any ex cathedra stance of unjustified value declarations. But the quality of the reasons have themselves to be evaluated, and it is always the

9 Preface xi strongest case - not any case for any position - which demands acceptance. The giving of reasons for an alternative viewpoint on the fixed references is not in itself, that is, sufficient justification for varying our own. As always in explanations of complex relationships, it would help to be able to say everything at once. In some circumstances, as in mathematics, we become aware of serious limitations on our understanding which, if we could free ourselves of them, would allow us to make mercurial moves rather than to take slower and more deliberate steps. We cannot communicate at once all the things we need to say on our topic, and we shall not understand some things, such as the complexity of the field, until we have reached the end. In the organization of chapters, therefore, the plan is for a progressive development of understanding, with the core of preceding thought brought forward to the new, and the new generally dependent on the preceding. Consistent with the principle of progressing from the relatively simple to the relatively complex, we explain and attempt to justify the three formal notions, testing them in subsequent discussions, and re-evaluating them at the end. The formal notions are themselves abstract, calling for some initial demands on the reader. After that their significance is likely to become clearer as we move to more practical perspectives. It is important to note that a special sense of 'formal notion' is used which departs from the extreme structural formality of some interpretations and uses of it. This variation is used so that each formal notion will be given sufficient foundational meaning to be directional throughout the discussion. It focuses on what is necessary for each of the notions to be translated into its relevant activity. In one of its various senses, 'definition' might be used to convey our particular sense of 'formal notion', but there is advantage in contrasting substantive notions with the formal in order to distinguish between what is primary and fundamental for each notion, and what are no more than secondary and substantive variations of it. That distinction enables us to make quick references in subsequent discussion without the need for repetition of explanation- keeping a questioning eye, at the same time, on whether the formal notion is as fundamental as we claim it to be. After education and justice in the first chapter, the second is devoted to the formal notion of morality, but because of the central importance of a moral point of view the discussion then widens to substantive considerations on morality and the defence of a coherent

10 xii Preface moral standpoint. The distinction between moral justice and legal justice links the second chapter to the third. Special attention is given to children's rights and animal rights as a basis for subsequent attention in Chapter 5. At the end of Chapter 3 much of the fundamental theoretical work is completed to provide a stance for understanding certain practical perspectives. However before moving to these practical considerations, especially in Chapters 5, 7 and 8, a further basis of understanding is required: that is, a clearer understanding of the relationship between reason and certain dispositions with which it interacts. Chapter 4 then is a bridging chapter between the first three chapters and Chapter 5 on practical considerations. It is concerned not with logically necessary relationships, but with contingent psychological possibilities, as well as with certain conceptual distinctions to aid in an understanding of these relationships. In the following chapter it is shown to have ethical implications for practice, such as in moral education. As a practical chapter, Chapter 5 deals with selected areas where ethical perspectives are relevant both to everyday affairs and to some of the distinctions and points of view developed in the preceding chapters. Chapter 6 fulfils an important function of developing a set of contrasting ideas as a background for reflection on our contemporary social situation. These ideas are not inert, embedded in historical epochs to which they have a peculiar relevance, but everyday practical ideas which suggest rather a universal relevance. Traditions of thought on individual-state relations provide a background of ideas for the practical considerations in Chapter 7 which culminate in the problem of equality of educational opportunity. Chapter 8 is both a review and an evaluative chapter, especially with reference to the formal notions. In particular it leads to the significance of the complex perspective to which we have referred, conjoining education. justice and morality in their elemental meanings, and showing both the simplicity and the starkness of the moral problem of equality of educational opportunity as it is brought into contact with these fundamental notions. There can be no apologies for providing a relevant background of others' thoughts on morality, justice and education, including social justice, both as a resource of ideas with which to compare and stimulate one's own, and as an antidote to the influences of those who function - like Orwell's carthorses in Animal Farm - merely as competent and conscientious followers of their chosen masters.

11 Preface xiii It would be hazardous to infer political intention from our criticism of injustices in either traditional capitalist or traditional socialist systems of government. In the recognition of injustice or immorality according to the formal notion of justice or morality the questions of underlying political values and political intentions have no relevance. An act is just or unjust, that is, whatever the motives or intentions of an author may be in commenting on it. There is, in fact, no political intention behind the criticisms offered. In practice it is difficult to see that rational preferences for either capitalist or socialist systems of government can be made from moral principles alone, for such principles may themselves conflict (liberty and equity for instance). An aggravating factor in practical political deliberations is human imperfection, so that in the last resort ideal social theory based on defensible moral principles finds itself in interaction with a pragmatic inclination which asks, Which system- given both moral convictions and an appreciation of human imperfections - is preferable in practice? The dangers of misunderstanding the pragmatic, or of yielding to pressures for quick solutions, as well as the possibilities of social improvement, must nonetheless point the compass clearly toward moral principles in most circumstances, unless the direction is also utopian. Denial of political purpose in the present work is justified by the complexity of these considerations. The general structure of the book, with its increasing complexity, is illustrated in the division into Parts. The first three chapters are concerned with Basic Conceptions and Underlying Principles. Further theoretical explanation is necessary on the nature of practical deliberations, but this has a practical orientation and so is united with practical applications to form Part II, which has been called a Practical Interlude. It is in fact much more than merely digressionary and illustrative, since the explanations of the relationships between dispositions and reason in practice have on-going significance as we consider Social Justice in State-Individual Relations constituting Part III. Although the pronoun 'we' has been used consistently instead of the singular form more common in philosophical discussions, there would be no point in attempting thereby to delude the reader into agreeing with every point of the argument. The stylistic preference has been prompted rather by conventions adopted in some formal discussion groups, thereby underlying the common purpose of members without encouraging conformity of viewpoint. The constant challenge to the reader must be to see if he has the better reason in

12 xiv Preface justifying a contrary point of view, realising, with Bacon, how difficult it is to claim that in practical situations we have attained truth in moral matters - able entirely to expunge 'vain opinions, flattering hopes, false valuations, imaginations', and the like (Of Truth). Applying his instruction to our present circumstances, 'Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider' (Of Studies),* we therefore add, to make our own purpose clearer: Read not for ultimate solutions to moral problems, but to understand others' views and to discuss them, the reasons for which will be unfolded at various points as we proceed. The reference to Of Truth is p.3 of Essays, and to Of Studies p.150 of the same, Everyman edition, J.M. Dent, London.

13 Acknowledgements Despite an attempt to pick out the main threads of relevant philosophical traditions from Plato to Aristotle, through to Hobbes and Locke, Hume and Kant, then to Mill, it is impossible to dismiss from the mind many contemporary influences, both in philosophy and in jurisprudence. An indication ofthese is reflected in the bibliography, as in references to Bernard Williams, John Mackie and Joel Feinberg in general ethics, and to Peter Singer in the specific area of animal interests; to John Rawls in social theory; to Lord Lloyd of Hampstead and Ronald Dworkin in jurisprudence, particularly on aspects of the philosophy of law. To all of these, and to many others whose influence at present has been dimmed through processes of assimilation, I acknowledge in humility a significant debt. L.M.B.

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