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Faculty & Research

Meira Levinson

Professor of Education

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:   https://tinyurl.com/levinsonofficehours
Office Hours Contact:  Online Sign-up
Faculty Assistant:  Cherise Kenner

Profile

Meira Levinson is a normative political philosopher who works at the intersection of civic education, youth empowerment, racial justice, 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. She is currently working to start a global field of educational ethics, modeled in some ways after bioethics, that is philosophically rigorous, disciplinarily and experientially inclusive, and both relevant to and informed by educational policy and practice. Levinson’s work in this area has been supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center of Ethics, and the Spencer Foundation.

Since the onslaught of the global novel coronavirus pandemic, Levinson has been focused on expanding educational ethics to address the multitude of ethical challenges posed by school closures, remote schooling, and uncertain reopenings. In collaboration with colleagues, she has co-authored The Path to Zero and Schools: Achieving Pandemic-Resilient Teaching and Learning Spaces policy guidance, a New England Journal of Medicine article on Reopening Primary Schools in a Pandemic, and two additional white papers. She has also been leading global teacher discussion groups on the ethical challenges they face.

Levinson’s most recent books include Democratic Discord in Schools: Cases and Commentaries in Educational Ethics (2019, with Jacob Fay), Dilemmas of Educational Ethics: Cases and Commentaries (2016, with Jacob Fay), Making Civics Count (2012, with David Campbell and Frederick Hess), and No Citizen Left Behind (2012). She also shares educational ethics resources on JusticeinSchools.org, rich video materials to support higher education pedagogy at Instructional Moves, and resources for youth activists and teacher allies at YouthinFront.org. Each of these projects, like her previous research, reflects Levinson's commitment to achieving productive cross-fertilization — without loss of rigor — among scholarship, policy, and practice.

She earned a B.A. in philosophy from Yale and a D.Phil. in politics from Nuffield College, Oxford University.

Areas of Expertise
Awards

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 coedita 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?

Publications

Levinson, Meira and Fay, Jacob (Eds). (2019) Democratic Discord in Schools: Cases and Commentaries in Educational Ethics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.,(2019)

https://www.justiceinschools.org/,(2019)

Levinson, M., and Fay, J. (2016) Dilemmas of Educational Ethics: Cases and Commentaries. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.,(2016)

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

“Dilemmas of Deliberative Civic Education” (2002). Philosophy of Education Yearbook: 262-70.,(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). Is Teaching About Martin Luther King, Jr., Bad for Kids? Guest blogger on Rick Hess Straight Up. January 18, 2011.,(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) 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). 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). 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. (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. (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). Taking Action: What We Can Do to Address the Civic Achievement Gap. Social Studies Review 48(1), 33-36.,(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)

“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.,(2008)

“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.,(2007)

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.,(2005)

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

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

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

“‘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.,(2003)

“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…),(2003)

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

“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.,(2002)

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

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

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

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

Associations

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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