Education policy decisions are both normatively and empirically challenging. These decisions require the consideration of both relevant values and empirical facts. Values tell us what we have reason to care about, and facts can be used to describe what is possible. Following Hamlin and Stemplowska, we distinguish between a theory of ideals and descriptions of feasibility. We argue that when feasibility constraints are used to rank competing states of affairs, two things must be articulated. First, one must explain why one feasibility constraint is preferred over another. Second, because of empirical uncertainty, one must describe the upper and lower bounds of a specified feasibility constraint. The first case implies that different optima are possible depending on, for example, what one takes to be fixed about the world. The second case implies that different optima are always possible, and the upper and lower bounds of these optima will depend on the empirical uncertainty of an estimated feasibility constraint. We then describe three distinct forms of empirical uncertainty. Careful consideration of these sources of uncertainty can help to mitigate the risks of imprecision. The article closes by considering a case study whereby a meritocratic conception of fair equality of opportunity is considered alongside competing values of priority and parental partiality.
The role of social science in action-guiding philosophy: The case of educational equity
Year of Publication:2014
Publication:Theory and Research in Education
(2014). The role of social science in action-guiding philosophy: The case of educational equity. Theory and Research in Education.