Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Educational Policy and Leadership Studies

First Advisor

McCarthy, Christine

First Committee Member

An, Brian

Second Committee Member

Hollingworth, Liz

Third Committee Member

Sanders, Katrina

Fourth Committee Member

Yarbrough, Don


The United States system of education is guided by broad underlying educational aims, whether or not those aims are critically examined or recognized. Contemporary educational discourse, however, has primarily focused on the level of implementation of policies and practices. This is a problem, because the broad underlying educational aims that guide the system of education have profound effects on humans' lives and the larger social structure. The question of what aims ought to guide education is a moral question that requires moral justification.

In this dissertation I develop the concept of Generative Community as a regulative ideal and use it to assess the moral value of six educational aims and six educational policies and practices. In conceptualizing Generative Community, I draw on the insights of Deweyan pragmatism. I draw on Dewey's work because of the clarity Dewey brings to the concept of education, the notion of an "ideal", and because of the clarity Dewey brings to the concept of moral value.

There are two parts to this dissertation. Part I is titled "Developing a Regulative Ideal for Educational Aims, Policies, and Practices".

In Part I, Chapter 1, I first explicate the concept of education that I employ. Second, I examine the scholarly literature in the field of educational philosophy on the subject of educational aims. Third, I set out the ethical theory of Dewey's reflective morality and critically assess its merits. I conclude that Deweyan reflective morality is a well warranted moral theory and can serve as the means to reach morally justifiable decisions.

In Part I, Chapter 2, I first discuss the multidimensional notion of the "Good Life" as an ultimate aim of education. I draw on Dewey's notion of "moral happiness" to give definition to the concept of the Good Life, and argue that society is best enabled to approach the Good Life if its decision making processes conform to a Deweyan form of reflective moral reasoning. Given this, a morally good education must provide conditions that are conducive to a) the occurrence of reflective morality and b) the realization of moral happiness and the Good Life. I then develop a conception of a state of affairs that would constitute an ideal, in the Deweyan sense, such an ideal being necessary for the Deweyan process of reflective morality. This is the concept of generative community. This concept is intended to serve as a regulative ideal.

Part II of the dissertation is titled "Using Generative Community as a Regulative Ideal to Assess the Moral Value of Educational Aims, Policies, and Practices. In Part II, Chapter III, I select and explicate six educational aims that have figured prominently in the U.S. system of education. I then assess each by reference to generative community as a regulative ideal. These aims are: 1) to disseminate knowledge; 2) to increase economic efficiency; 3) to achieve individual self-realization; 4) to promote cultural assimilation; 5) to promote the growth of democracy; and, 6) to advance social justice.

In Part II, Chapter IV, I select and explicate six prominent and politically important cases of educational policy and practice in the United States. The first three cases of educational policy and practice exemplify features within the current system of education that conflict with generative community. The second three cases exemplify features within the current system of education that align well with generative community.

Finally, in the Conclusion, I provide a summary account of the work that has been accomplished.


Aims, Education, Ethics, Ideals, Moral, Policy


vi, 144 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 130-144).


Copyright 2013 Chris Peckover