Jennifer Morton | The Costs of Transformation

This is an Archive of a Past Event

In this talk, Morton considers the transformative potential of higher education. She argues that some strivers, her term for first-generation/low-income students, find that pursuing higher education can lead to a transformative experience that cleaves their evaluative outlook. These students are torn between old sources of value—family and community—and new ones—education and career. This is not due to some inherent features of the values at stake but, largely, the unjust opportunity structure in our society. This unjust distribution makes it expensive for strivers to continue to hold on to some existing values if they want to pursue mobility. But it is not only Strivers that pay the costs of our opportunity structure. I argue that reflecting on the case of Strivers also shows us that this same system makes it too easy for non-strivers to disengage from those sources of value. Although Strivers bear the brunt of the cost of how this system undercuts our engagement with the value of community, non-strivers are not exempt from its consequences.

About the Speaker

Jennifer Morton is the Presidential Penn Compact Associate Professor of Philosophy with a secondary appointment at the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also a senior fellow at the Center for Ethics and Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Previously, she has held positions at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the City College of New York, the Graduate Center-CUNY, and Swarthmore College. Her areas of research are philosophy of action, moral philosophy, philosophy of education, and political philosophy. She's interested in how poverty and social class shape our agency. Her book Moving Up Without Losing Your Way: The Ethical Costs of Upward Mobility focuses on the ethical sacrifices that first-generation and low-income students make in pursuing upward mobility. It was awarded the Frederic W. Ness Book Award by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, selected as Princeton President Eisgruber’s Pre-Read for the Class of 2025, and the Grawemeyer Award in Education

About the Series

Claire and John Radway Research Workshop

Sponsored by the Stanford Humanities Center and made possible by support from Claire and John Radway, the Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities