A good deal of my research focuses on how theories of justice should acknowledge and incorporate the distinct interests and claims of children. This project is related to more general interests I have in contemporary theories of justice and democratic theory. One theme in my work concerns educational justice both with respect to how access to education should be distributed to children and with respect to the appropriate objectives of education. I have defended an egalitarian conception of educational justice in which all children are entitled to equally education and I have criticized sufficientarian and neo-republican accounts of educational justice. Although I believe that autonomy facilitation is a crucial facet of children’s education, I am also interested in exploring the ways in schools should be sensitive to fairly securing non-preparatory goods of childhood for children.
In a recent book (co-written with historian Ben Justice) Have a Little Faith: Religion, Democracy and the American Public School (University of Chicago Press 2016) we investigate the place of religion in American public education. We argue that against the background of religious pluralism, democratic education should facilitate the acquisition of autonomy by children and should equip them with the knowledge and skills integral to democratic deliberation animated by an ideal of public reason. An excerpt of the book recently appeared in The Atlantic and another excerpt will appear in the May 2017 edition of The Humanist. In a related vein, Christine Tappolet and I are editing a volume for Routledge entitled Philosophical Perspectives on Moral and Civic Education: Shaping Citizens.
A different theme of my research about children and families concerns the nature of parental authority in relation to both the vulnerability of children and their status as juvenile agents – beings with some but not fully mature agential capacities. Samantha Brennan and I have recently argued that the moral right to parent is conditional on parents meeting a threshold of competency. We contend that extremely homophobic parents fall short of this standard and do not, consequently, have a moral right to parent children. Although the special vulnerability of children grounds special duties to protect and promote the interests of children, some work of mine considers ways in which children, in virtue of their emerging agency, have prerogatives to expose themselves to risks do not serve their best interests.
In addition to research on children, families and justice, I am interested in determining what role considerations of individual responsibility should play in an egalitarian theory of justice and how political institutions can facilitate informed and respectful democratic deliberation.
The following are recent papers related to these themes:
Children and Justice Generally
“Are Children’s Rights Important?” in Philosophical Foundations of Children’s and Family Law, Elizabeth Brake and Lucinda Ferguson (eds), Oxford University Press, (forthcoming).
“Distributive Justice and the Family” in The Oxford Handbook of Distributive Justice, Serena Olsaretti (ed.), Oxford University Press (forthcoming).
“Just Schools and Good Childhoods: Non-preparatory Dimensions of Educational Justice”, Journal of Applied Philosophy, June 2016 DOI: 10.1111/japp.12227.
“Freedom as non-domination and educational justice”, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, Vol. 18, No. 4, 2015: pp. 456–469.
“Justice, Educational Equality and Sufficiency” in Justice and Equality, Colin M. Macleod (ed.), Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2012: pp. 151-175.
Parental Authority and Children’s Vulnerability
“Doctrinal Vulnerability and the Authority of Children’s Voices” in Vulnerability, Autonomy and Applied Ethics, Christine Straehle (ed.) Routledge 2017.
“Fundamentally Incompetent: Homophobia, Religion, and the Right to Parent” (co-authored with Samantha Brennan) in Procreation, Parenthood, and Educational Rights, Jaime Ahlberg and Michael Chobli (eds.), Routledge 2016.
“Agency, Authority and the Vulnerability of Children” in The Nature of Children’s Well-being: Theory and Practice, A. Bagattini and C. Macleod (eds.), Springer, 2014: pp. 53-64.
“Democratic Deliberation and Electoral Reform” in Should We Change How We Vote? Evaluating Canada’s Electoral System, A. Potter, D. Weinstock, & P. Lowen,(eds.), McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017: 74-86.