Sunday, 1 July 2012

The 'moral purpose of education' is...good education?

According to Estelle Morris at the Guardian, for-profit schools 'threaten the moral purpose of education'. But what is the 'moral purpose of education'? Presumably...good education - irrespective if this is accomplished by for-profit companies, non-profit organisations or state schools. Any other ostensible 'moral purpose' muddles the goal of education, and increases the risk that public policy continues to be guided more by ideological views than actual evidence.

According to Ms Morris, '[T]he financial bottom line will never provide the motivation to deliver what we want and need from schools'. If we assume that she wants to improve the quality of education, she is simply flat-out wrong.  As I've argued, here and here, the preponderance of research displays very little differences between for-profit and non-profit schools. In some cases, such as Pennsylvania, for-profit schools actually outperform their non-profit competitors significantly.

If she doesn't mean quality on measurable indicators, well, the argument ends there. If so, it is impossible to either reject or confirm her view since we are not dealing with falsifiable arguments. While this is a comfortable position, since one never has to provide any evidence whatsoever for one's stances, it's untenable as a guide for public policy.

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