We spend a lot of time arguing about how schools might be improved. But we rarely take a step back to ask what we as a society should be looking for from education—what exactly should those who make decisions be trying to achieve?
In Educational Goods, two philosophers and two social scientists address this very question. They begin by broadening the language for talking about educational policy: “educational goods” are the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that children develop for their own benefit and that of others; “childhood goods” are the valuable experiences and freedoms that make childhood a distinct phase of life. Balancing those, and understanding that not all of them can be measured through traditional methods, is a key first step. From there, they show how to think clearly about how those goods are distributed and propose a method for combining values and evidence to reach decisions. They conclude by showing the method in action, offering detailed accounts of how it might be applied in school finance, accountability, and choice. The result is a reimagining of our decision making about schools, one that will sharpen our thinking on familiar debates and push us toward better outcomes.