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Is a community being unethical if it does not provide good schools?


The following ran on the May 8, 2012, edition of the Dallas Morning News Education Front blog. Education Dean David Chard provided expertise for this story.

May 10, 2012

By William McKenzie

Mayor Mike Rawlings raised a provocative question during a speech at SMU yesterday. He was speaking to a forum put together by SMU's Simmons School of Education and Human Development, its Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility and its Center on Communities and Education. The focus of the meeting was the ethical responsibility of delivering a quality education.

After talking some about a community's obligation to its students, the mayor turned the issue on its head and posed the question in a way I had not thought about. Is a community being unethical, the mayor asked, if it does not provide decent schools?

He did not answer the question, but I would say the answer is yes, if we as a community are not taking the steps to provide a decent education. If we believe we have a moral responsibility to students, it stands to reason that we are failing to act ethically if we fail to meet that responsibility.

So, what is a good education?

I served on a panel after the mayor's speech, and David Chard, SMU's education dean, asked each of us on it to say what we think constitutes a good education. My answer was that if a community delivers the following ingredients, it will likely end up providing decent schools:

*Strong principals
*Effective teachers
*Strong teacher preparation
*Instruction that is guided by classroom data
*Middle schools that know how to intervene with struggling students
*Adequate funding and an efficient use of resources
*Strong parental support
*Neighborhood buy-in for nearby campuses.

Of course, each of us may have our own ideas about what makes for a decent education. But the way the mayor framed the question at the last should create a sense of urgency for all of us in Dallas, regardless of our ideas or if we even have kids in the district. If we do not provide good schools, then we indeed are failing to uphold the common good. It is hard to see how that is anything but unethical behavior.