Associate Professor Meira Levinson was recently awarded a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship for her project, “Justice in Schools,” which combines philosophical analysis and school-based case studies to illuminate the complex dimensions of evaluating, achieving, and teaching justice in schools. Of the 178 new Guggenheim Fellows, Levinson is the only one representing the field of education.
"I am extremely honored to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and excited about the opportunity it presents,” Levinson said.
Levinson researches educational justice and what it means to treat children justly in imperfect circumstances. Working with HGSE students, she has developed case studies focusing on particular dilemmas of justice in schools and school districts like ethics of grade inflation, eighth-grade promotion and retention policies, lottery-based school assignment, disciplining socially fragile children, and teacher firings. “The Guggenheim Fellowship will allow me to write in more detail about specific cases, and also to synthesize them in order to develop a more general theory of educational justice in unjust contexts,” Levinson said.
Levinson hopes 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 her commitment to achieving productive cross-fertilization — without loss of rigor — among scholarship, policy, and practice.
“It’s exciting to name 178 new Guggenheim Fellows. These artists and writers, scholars and scientists, represent the best of the best,” said Edward Hirsch, president of the foundation. “Since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has always bet everything on the individual, and we’re thrilled to continue the tradition with this wonderfully talented and diverse group. It’s an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do.”
A normative political philosopher who researches civic education, multiculturalism, youth empowerment, and educational ethics, Levinson 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 and No Citizen Left Behind. The latter 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. Levinson fosters civic education scholarship at Harvard as co-convener of HGSE’s Civic and Moral Education Initiative.