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Faculty & Research

Meira Levinson

Professor of Education
(On Leave 2019-2020)

Meira Levinson

Degree:  Ph.D., University of Oxford, (1997)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Phone:  617.496.1562
Vitae/CV:   Meira Levinson.pdf
Office:  Gutman 413
Office Hours:
Office Hours Contact:  Online Sign-up
Faculty Assistant:  Cherise Kenner


Meira Levinson is a normative political philosopher who writes about civic education, multiculturalism, youth empowerment, and educational ethics. In doing so, she draws upon scholarship from multiple disciplines as well as her eight years of experience teaching in the Atlanta and Boston Public Schools. Her most recent books include the co-edited Making Civics Count (Harvard Education Press, 2012) and No Citizen Left Behind (Harvard University Press, 2012). The latter book shows how schools can help tackle a civic empowerment gap that is as shameful and antidemocratic as the academic achievement gap targeted by No Child Left Behind. In 2013, it was awarded the Michael Harrington Award from the American Political Science Association, the Exemplary Research in Social Studies Award from the National Council for the Social Studies, and a Critics Choice Award from the American Educational Studies Association. It also won the 2014 North American Society for Social Philosophy Book Award. Levinson fosters civic education scholarship at Harvard as co-convener of HGSE's Civic and Moral Education Initiative.

Levinson has been awarded a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship to support her newest project, on "Justice in Schools." In this work, she combines philosophical analysis and school-based case studies to illuminate the complex dimensions of evaluating, achieving, and teaching justice in schools. The project is intended to give educators tools for making just decisions in their own practice, and also to push political theorists to develop theories of justice that are robust enough to address complex school-based dilemmas. This project, like her previous research, reflects Levinson's commitment to achieving productive cross-fertilization — without loss of rigor — among scholarship, policy, and practice.

Click here to see a full list of Meira Levinson's courses.

Areas of Expertise
Guggenheim Fellowship,(2014)

North American Society for Social Philosophy Book Award,(2014)

American Educational Studies Association Critics Choice Award for No Citizen Left Behind,(2013)

Michael Harrington Book Award, New Political Science Caucus, American Political Science Association,(2013)

NCSS 2013 Exemplary Research in Social Studies Education Award, National Council for the Social Studies,(2013)

Bunting Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study,(2003)

Young Scholar Award, Program in Ethics and Public Life, Cornell University,(2003)

Post-Doctoral Fellowship, National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation,(2002)

Sponsored Projects

Normative Case Studies of the Ethics of Educational (In)Justice (2015-2017)
Spencer Foundation

Educators and educational policy makers regularly face challenging ethical decisions. But they receive little support in thinking through them other than as technocratic challenges: say, of compliance or leadership. Normative philosophers offer some help, but many dilemmas especially of educational justice in non-ideal contexts, have yet to be addressed. I propose a phronetic approach that works up from specific non-ideal problems as well as down from more abstract ideal theory in order to develop practical wisdom. In particular, I propose the development of empirically researched normative case studies of dilemmas of justice that arise in schools and school districts. Over the past two years, my students and I have researched fifteen normative case studies, ranging from classroom discipline practices to district-wide school assignment policies. The proposed project has three components extending this initial research. First, I will pilot three normative case studies by conducting focus groups with educators, policymakers, high school students, and parents. These focus groups will enable those who practice and experience education to generate insights into the cases. Following on from this, second, I will write (or co-author) three articles about these individual cases. I will also write a synthetic article about the general challenges that any theory of educational justice must address, and write a fifth article about normative case study methodology. Third, an advanced doctoral student and I will coedit a book of six normative case studies, each accompanied by short commentaries by leading philosophers, social scientists, educators, and policy makers. This book is designed to model, generate, and sustain on-going conversations about normative dilemmas of educational policy and practice across disciplinary and professional boundaries. The project as a whole will help educators and policymakers develop the capacities to make more ethical decisions under challenging conditions, and also develop normative philosophy itself..

Annual International Conference in Philosophy of Education (2014-2018)
Spencer Foundation

We propose to organize and run three by-invitation-only conferences on philosophical issues in contemporary education. These conferences will be augmented by graduate student workshops and production of an edited book. Our goal is to consolidate and enlarge the international community of scholars who are dedicated to developing philosophy of education as a sub-discipline of philosophy. In particular, we are trying to foster an approach to doing philosophy of education that is both philosophically rigorous and educationally deep. Our first conference, on “Hybridized Education and the Intersection of Public and Private,” responds to the fact that charter schools, virtual schools, corporate and big philanthropic interventions in education, and individual content creators are all blurring the boundaries between public and private education. Questions to be considered include: What should “public” education stand for in the early twenty-first century, if anything, and why? How do these new developments reflect, refine, expand, or overturn the democratic purposes and character of education? Our second conference, on “Changing Access to Higher Education” will address the national and global transformation in who has access to higher education, under what circumstances, and to what ends. We will consider: To what extent might inequality of opportunity be exacerbated as only the most privileged are able to access residential and other goods of university membership? What is the epistemic standing of the “marketplace of ideas” if a small number of superstar professors end up monopolizing the market? How should we understand knowledge creation and distribution in a system that simultaneously fosters decentralization and potential commercial hegemony? Finally, our third conference on “Teacher Expertise and the Nature of Professional Judgment” will consider the creation, evaluation, and/or dissemination of expert teachers—questions which lie at the heart of the contemporary global education reform movement. What does it mean to be expert in a field or a practice? How does “judgment” fit into the acquisition and enactment of such expertise, in particular educational expertise? How can concepts of phronesis, praxis, and/or virtue epistemology shed light on these questions?

Campbell, D., M. Levinson, and F. Hess (Eds.). Making Civics Count. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.,(2012)

Levinson, M. (2012). No Citizen Left Behind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.,(2012)

Levinson, M. (2011). Why Education is Not ‘The Civil Rights Issue of Our Time.’ Guest blogger on Rick Hess Straight Up. January 20, 2011.,(2011)

Levinson, M. (2011) Benefits of Civic Education: Increased Equality and Narrowed Civic Empowerment Gap. Section of national report on Keeping Our Republic: Restoring the Civic Mission of Schools, to be released by the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools.,(2011)

Levinson, M. (2011) Racial Politics and Double Consciousness: Education for Liberation in an Inescapably Diverse Polity. Canadian Issues/Thèmes Canadiens. Diversity and Education for Liberation: Realities, Possibilities, and Problems. Spring 2011, 80-82.,(2011)

Levinson, M. (2011). What Can Schools Do To Promote Civil Dialogue? Guest blogger on Rick Hess Straight Up. January 19, 2011. Reprinted in Citizenship Matters. National Center for Learning and Citizenship, Education Commission of the States. March-April 2011.,(2011)

Levinson, M. (2011). Is Teaching About Martin Luther King, Jr., Bad for Kids? Guest blogger on Rick Hess Straight Up. January 18, 2011.,(2011)

Levinson, M. (2011). Democracy, Accountability, and Education. Theory and Research in Education 9(2): 125-144.,(2011)

Reich, J., M. Levinson, and W. Johnson (2011). Using Online Social Networks to Foster Preservice Teachers’ Membership in a Networked Community of Praxis. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education (CITE): forthcoming.,(2011)

Levinson, M. (2010). An Embarrassing Second Amendment: A Proud Daughter Belatedly (1) Recognizes and (2) Celebrates Her Father’s Influence on Her Life and Work. Law and Courts 20(3), 16-17.,(2010)

Levinson, M. (2010). The Civic Empowerment Gap: Defining the Problem and Locating Solutions. In L.R. Sherrod, J. Torney-Purta, and C.A. Flanagan (Eds.) Handbook of Research on Civic Engagement in Youth (pp. 331-361). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.,(2010)

Levinson, M. (2009). Taking Action: What We Can Do to Address the Civic Achievement Gap. Social Studies Review 48(1), 33-36.,(2009)

Levinson, M. (2009). Mapping Multicultural Education. In H. Siegel (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education (pp. 420-442). New York: Oxford University Press.,(2009)

Levinson, M. (2009). 'Let Us Now Praise...?' Rethinking Heroes and Role Models in an Egalitarian Age. In Y. Raley & G. Preyer (Eds.), Philosophy of Education in the Era of Globalization (pp. 129-161). New York: Routledge.,(2009)

“Combating the Civic Achievement Gap.” (2008). ASCD Express.,(2008)

“Minority Participation and Civic Education in Deliberative Democracies” (2002). In Daniel A. Bell and Avner de-Shalit, eds. Forms of Justice: Critical Perspectives on David Miller's Political Philosophy. Boulder: Rowman and Littlefield: 159-82.

“Finding Role Models in the Community” (2008). In Mica Pollock, ed. Everyday Antiracism: Concrete Ways to Successfully Navigate the Relevance of Race in School. New York: The New Press: 120-4.

“Common Schools and Multicultural Education” (2007). Journal of Philosophy of Education 41(4): 625-42.Also in Mark Halstead and Graham Haydon, eds. (2008). The Common School and the Comprehensive Ideal. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell: 124-40.

The Demands of Liberal Education (1999). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Democracy at Risk: How Political Choices Undermine Citizen Participation, and What We Can Do About It (2005). Co-authored with Stephen Macedo (primary author) and others. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.

“Taking Action: What We Can Do to Address the Civic Achievement Gap” (forthcoming). Social Studies Review. Journal of the California Council for the Social Studies.

“Multicultural Education” (forthcoming). In Harvey Siegel, ed. Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

“The Language of Race” (2003). Theory and Research in Education 1(3): 267-81. (Book review of Lawrence Blum, I’m Not a Racist, But…)

“The Civic Achievement Gap” (2004). Threshold 2 (3): 12-15.

“Solving the Civic Achievement Gap in De Facto Segregated Schools” (2005). Philosophy and Public Policy Quarterly 25 (1/2): 2-10.

“Liberalism, Pluralism, and Political Education: Paradox or Paradigm?” (1999). Oxford Review of Education 25: 39-58.

“Liberalism versus Democracy? Schooling Private Citizens in the Public Square” (1997). British Journal of Political Science 27: 333-360.

“Is Autonomy Imposing Education Too Demanding? A Response to Dr. De Ruyter” (2004). Studies in Philosophy and Education 23: 223-33.

“Dilemmas of Deliberative Civic Education” (2002). Philosophy of Education Yearbook: 262-70.

“‘Getting Religion:’ Religion, Community, and Diversity in Public and Private Schools” (2003). Co-authored with Sanford Levinson. In Alan Wolfe, ed. School Choice: The Moral Debate. Princeton: Princeton University Press: 104-25. Also in Sanford Levinson. Wrestling with Diversity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press: 90-123.

“Challenging Deliberation” (2003). Theory and Research in Education 1(1): 23-49.

Advisory Board, Generation Citizen,(2010-present)

Advisory Board, Schools, Civics and Citizenship: What Teachers Think and Do, AEI,(2010-present)

Founding Member, National Action Civics Collaborative,(2010-present)

Advisory Board, We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution and We the People: Project Citizen,(2009-present)

Research Advisory Board, CIRCLE and the Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, Tufts University,(2009-present)

Grant reviewer, Spencer Foundation,(2007-present)

Editorial Board, Theory and Research in Education,(2006-present)

Steering Committee Member, Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools,(2003-present)

Reviewer for peer-reviewed journals and publishers including Theory and Research in Education, Citizenship Studies, Studies in Philosophy and Education, Journal of Politics, Oxford University Press, Chicago University Press, Routledge, Rowman and Littlefield,(2000-present)

Board of Trustees, Discovering Justice,(2010-2013)

Civic Schools Design Team, Civic Ed Project,(2011-2011)

Annual Conference Program Committee, Philosophy of Education Society,(2010-2011)

Public Face of PES Committee, Philosophy of Education Society,(2008-2009)

Young Faculty Leadership Forum,(2002-2006)

Choices in Little Rock Advisory Group, Facing History and Ourselves,(2003-2005)

Civics in Action Planning Committee, Boston Public Schools,(2003-2005)

American Political Science Association’s Standing Committee on Civic Education and Engagement,(2002-2005)

Inaugural Member, American Political Science Association’s Standing Committee on Civic Education and Engagement,(2002-2005)

Education Committee, Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities,(2000-2004)

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