Education 6410

Seminar on Philosophical Issues in Educational Policy and Practice

Instructor: Walter C. Okshevsky, PhD
Office: E3060
Winter 2004
Phone: 737-7613

Course Description

Is argumentation and decision-making on matters of educational policy and practice simply based on personal preferences, or social consensus or political power relations between educational stakeholders? To what extent are the results of science and public opinion of value in making justified decisions? Are there rationally defensible and objective principles, values and criteria necessary for reasoned moral deliberation and effective policy design? This course focuses on skills of argumentation and decision-making required by educational leaders for the formulation of ethically justifiable educational policy and the cogent assessment of educational practice. The bases or grounds of skilled educational leadership will be examined through the study of a number of issues, case-studies and debates in the areas of educational leadership, policy studies and administrative ethics. Both classical and modern texts will be studied. Questions regarding the rationality and rightness of practical and moral decision-making will be pursued through such topics as educational opportunity and equality, the priority of intellectual autonomy as an educational ideal, the character of democratic public deliberation, and educational authority. These topics will illustrate fundamental differences between technical and humanistic conceptions of educational deliberation and argumentation. Other relevant topics of interest to seminar participants may be examined.

Seminar Topics and Readings

Introduction: Argument, decision-making and leadership. What are the objective and morally required principles and values in educational leadership?

Topic 1. Hodgkinson's typology/hierarchy of values for moral reasoning and deliberation: technical and humanistic conceptions of administrative decision-making; facts and values; choosing between competing values.

Reading: Christopher Hodgkinson: "Value theory," in Administrative philosophy: values and motivations in administrative life (New York & Oxford: Pergamon, 1996) pp.105-133.

Topic 2.
Equal educational opportunity: the requirements of justice and fairness; principles of equal treatment, equal respect and benefit maximization.

Ken Strike, Emil Haller & Jonas Soltis, "Equal educational opportunity," in The ethics of school administration (New York & London: Teacher's College, Columbia University, 1988) pp. 51-62.

Topic 3
. Moral deliberation and democratic dialogue in educational policy: teachers' professional expertise vs. external authorities; relativism and truth in defending and prioritizing values.

Ken Strike & Jonas Soltis, "Democracy, deliberation and reflective equilibrium," in The ethics of teaching 3rd. edition (New York & London: Teacher's College, Columbia University, 1998) pp.94-114.

Topic 4.
Practical judgment and training for educational leadership: skills, values, principles, criteria and dispositions.

David Corson, "Quality of judgment and deciding rightness: ethics and educational administration," Journal of educational administration, volume 23, #2, Summer 1985, pp.122-130. And Lynn G. Beck & Joseph Murphy, "Ethics in preparation programs today," in Ethics in Educational Leadership programs (Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 1994) pp.33-54.

Topic 5
. Justifying intellectual autonomy as fundamental educational aim: criticisms of autonomy by religious fundamentalism and the obligations of the democratic state.

: " 'He drew a circle that shut me out: assimilation, indoctrination and the paradox of a liberal education," Harvard Law Review, volume 106, #3, January 1993, excerpts from pp. 582-667. And Ken Strike, Emil Haller & Jonas Soltis, "Educational authority," in The ethics of school administration op cit.

Topic 6.
The Positivist paradigm and policy argumentation: the role of science in decison-making; deliberating on means and ends.

Herbert Simon, "Fact and value in decision-making," & "Rationality in administrative behavior," in Administrative behavior: a study of decision making process in administrative organization (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1957) pp.45-78.

Topic 7:
The Humanistic paradigm in educational leadership: organizational reality and a new epistemology for administrative deliberation.

Thomas B. Greenfield, "The decline and fall of science in educational administration," Interchange, volume 17, #2, Summer 1986, pp.57-80.


There is no required textbook for this course. All readings are on library reserve at QE II library. Readings are catalogued under author and title of chapter or journal article.


Paper (55%): Maximum of 15 pages exclusive of References and Bibliography, typed, double-spaced. Submission of draft of the paper is recommended. Topic to be decided in consultation with the instructor.

Seminar presentation (35%): A discussion of a topic or case related to the issues covered in the seminar. Students may choose their own reading materials.

Participation (10%)

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