Ethics and Education Reform: Restorative Justice Programs
Education continues to command political and public attention; elementary and secondary school reform is frequently mentioned when Americans are asked about what changes are necessary to ensure America's place in the world.
Even so, amidst all the interest in educational reform, very little has been said about its ethics: that is, whether the most popular reforms offer principled approaches that serve individual students' best interests and the common good of schools and communities.
One reform, however, that takes such a principled approach are school programs based on the practices and insights of restorative justice.
One of the most effective, principled and thoughtful practitioners of restorative justice practices in our schools lives and works in Michigan. Bill Sower, the founder and director of The Christopher and Virginia Sower Center for Successful Schools, has been a teacher and proponent of comprehensive curricular and school cultural reform supported by restorative justice approaches for thirty five years.
To be sure, restorative justice programs are just one of the many initiatives necessary to transform education. In our conversation, Bill Sower was quick to point this out. We agree. And yet--what the programs Bill teaches integrate that some other popular reforms do not--is an ethical purpose backed by an ethical principle, a principle long associated with American education: just and fair treatment.