Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 181–191 | Cite as

Exploring the Moral Complexity of School Choice: Philosophical Frameworks and Contributions

  • Terri S. WilsonEmail author


In this essay, I describe some of the methodological dimensions of my ongoing research into how parents choose schools. I particularly focus on how philosophical frameworks and analytical strategies have shaped the empirical portion of my research. My goal, in this essay, is to trace and explore the ways in which philosophy of education—as a methodological orientation—may enable researchers to be attentive to the normative dimensions of human experience. In addition, I will argue that philosophically informed empirical research offers new possibilities for making normative arguments that are closely connected to the non-ideal, complex ground of actual experience.


Philosophy of education Research methodology School choice 


  1. Arsen, D., Plank, D. N., & Sykes, G. (1999). School choice policies in Michigan: The rules matter. East Lansing: The Education Policy Center at Michigan State University.Google Scholar
  2. Bell, C. A. (2005). All choice created equal? How good parents select “failing” schools. Columbia University, National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education [PDF Document]. Retrieved from
  3. Bell, C. A. (2007). Space and place: Urban parents’ geographical preferences for schools. The Urban Review, 39(4), 375–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bell, C. A. (2008). Social class differences in school choice: The role of preferences. In W. Feinberg & C. Lubienski (Eds.), School choice policies and outcomes: Empirical and philosophical perspectives (pp. 121–148). Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bell, C. (2009). Geography in parental choice. American Journal of Education, 115, 493–521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brantlinger, E. (2003). Dividing classes: How the middle class negotiates and rationalizes school advantage. New York, NY: Routledge Falmer.Google Scholar
  7. Brighouse, H. (2000). School choice and social justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Brighouse, H., & Swift, A. (2008). Legitimate parental partiality. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 37(1), 43–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Crozier, G., Reay, D., James, D., Jamieson, F., Beedell, P., Hollingworth, S., et al. (2008). White middle-class parents, identities, educational choice and the urban comprehensive school: Dilemmas, ambivalence and moral ambiguity. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 29, 261–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dewey, J. (1916 [1997]). Democracy and education. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  11. Downs, A. (1957). An economic theory of democracy. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  12. Elster, J. (1986). Introduction to rational choice. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Englund, T. (1993). Education for public or private good. In G. Miron (Ed.), Towards free choice and market-oriented schools: Problems and promises (pp. 27–44). Stockholm: Skolverket.Google Scholar
  14. Feinberg, W. (2006). For goodness sake. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Feinberg, W., & Layton, R. A. (2014). For the civic good: The liberal case for teaching religion in the public schools. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  16. Fiske, E. B., & Ladd, H. F. (2000). When schools compete: A cautionary tale. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  17. Henig, J. R. (1994). Rethinking school choice: Limits of the market metaphor. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Howe, K. (1997). Understanding equal educational opportunity: Social justice, democracy and schooling. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  19. Kvale, S., & Brinkmann, S. (2009). Interviews: Learning the craft of qualitative research interviewing (2nd ed.). Beverley Hills, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  20. Labaree, D. L. (2000). No exit: Public education as an inescapably public good. In L. Cuban & D. Shipps (Eds.), Reconstructing the common good in education: Coping with intractable American dilemmas. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Lacireno-Paquet, N., & Brantley, C. (2012). Who chooses schools, and why? The characteristics and motivations of families who actively choose schools. In G. Miron, K. G. Welner, P. Hinchey, & W. Mathis (Eds.), Exploring the school choice universe: Evidence and recommendations (pp. 65–88). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  22. Levinson, M. (1999). The demands of liberal education. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Lubienski, C. (2007). Marketing schools: Consumer goods and competitive incentives for consumer information. Education and Urban Society, 40(1), 118–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Macedo, S. (2000). Diversity and distrust: Civic education in a multicultural democracy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  25. McAvoy, P. (2012). “There are no housewives on Star Trek”: A reexamination of exit rights for the children of insular fundamentalist parents. Educational Theory, 62(5), 535–552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Minow, M. (2010). In Brown’s wake: Legacies of America’s educational landmark. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Reay, D. (2008). Class out of place: The White middle classes and intersectionalities of class and “race” in urban state schooling in England. In L. Weis (Ed.), The way class works (pp. 87–99). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  28. Reay, D., Hollingworth, S., Williams, K., Crozier, G., Jamieson, F., James, D., et al. (2007). “A darker shade of pale?” Whiteness, the middle classes and multi-ethnic inner-city schooling. Sociology, 41, 1041–1060.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Reich, R. (2002). Bridging liberalism and multiculturalism in education. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  30. Roda, A., & Wells, A. S. (2013). School choice policies and racial segregation: Where white parents’ good Intentions, anxiety, and privilege Collide. American Journal of Education, 119(1), 261–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Schneider, M., & Buckley, J. (2002). What do parents want from schools? Evidence from the Internet. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 24(2), 133–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Schneider, M., Teske, P., & Marschall, M. (2000). Choosing schools: Consumer choice and the quality of American schools. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Sieber, R. T. (1982). The politics of middle-class success in an inner-city public school. Journal of Education, 164, 30–47.Google Scholar
  34. Suissa, J. (2010). How comprehensive is your conception of the good? Liberal parents, difference, and the common school. Educational Theory, 60(5), 587–600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Swift, A. (2003). How not to be a hypocrite: School choice for the morally perplexed. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  36. Weiher, G. R., & Tedin, K. L. (2002). Does choice lead to racially distinctive schools? Charter schools and household preferences. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 21(1), 79–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational Administration and Higher EducationSouthern Illinois University CarbondaleCarbondaleUSA

Personalised recommendations