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date: 18 June 2024

Justice and Educationlocked

Justice and Educationlocked

  • Christopher MartinChristopher MartinThe University of British Columbia


One of the fundamental tasks of philosophy is the search for the just state, or “best regime.” Discerning the right, or most desirable, norms and principles of governance and the fair treatment of citizens extends back into antiquity. To ask “What is just?” is to make salient enduring questions about what people are owed as members of a political community, as well as the kind of political community that can ensure that people receive what they are owed.

Answering the question, “what is just” also requires inquiry into the scope and substance of education within a just and fair society. This, because a just regime is not self-sufficient. It must be cultivated, developed, and preserved. Here we are concerned with the values and aims that a just society should strive to provide for citizens and how access to those values and aims should be justly structured. For example, what kind of educational provision should be allocated to all citizens as a matter or basic justice or fairness? How should limited educational goods and resources be allocated between different citizens? To what extent should education promote norms of conduct and points of view among members of a political community in order to promote greater justice and fairness between citizens, and what should these norms and points of view consist?

However, in addition to the reasons why education can contribute to a just society, engaging in these questions also requires a careful consideration of the reasons why (or why not) people are owed an education. I am here suggesting that philosophers interested in education and justice must contend with what it is about education that might make it something that individuals rightly have a claim to as a matter of justice alongside a consideration of the ways in which the provision of education can promote a justice in a more widespread sense. The two are not one and the same. For example, imagine an indoctrinative education that ensured future citizens acted with flawless impartiality and fairness in all things resulting in a society of perfect equality. One might claim that, merits aside, such an education would unjustly deny individual citizens an education for critical thinking and independence.

Consequently, inquiry into education and justice raises numerous philosophically complex questions arising from the interplay of general political principles and educational values including the nature and scope of educational rights, tensions between the cultivation of individuals and the development of communities, the attribution of differences in educational achievement to desert (or not), and the role and limits of educational allocation in supporting a more equal society, to name just a few.


  • Educational Theories and Philosophies

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