Illinois State University’s women’s and gender studies program is proud that affiliated faculty member and Assistant Professor of Philosophy Gina Schouten has been selected as a recipient for the Illinois State University Research Initiative Award.

The award recognizes the quality of her current research and potential for impactful future research.

Schouten’s research critically looks at educational justice, political liberalism and legitimacy, and gender specifically investigating the impact gender division has on citizenship. Here, the women’s and gender studies (WGS) program gets to know Schouten and her research a little more intimately.

WGS: How does your research connect to women’s and gender studies?

Schouten: My research interests fall into the broad categories of political theory, gender justice, and educational justice. I think that each of these relates to the ideals of WGS.

A few examples: My dissertation focused on the social norms sustaining gendered allocations of work within families, and the difficulties those norms present as individuals interact with social institutions like schools and labor markets. My research in educational justice explores the challenges and potentialities for educating historically underrepresented groups. My research agenda concerning the lack of diversity in philosophy has motivated me to work to make the environment of academic philosophy more hospitable to under-served populations, both within my own classrooms and within the discipline more broadly.

What are your research plans for the near future?

My near-term research plans concern educational justice. Our education system is characterized by extreme inequalities among students as measured by their attainment of various important educational outcomes. These educational inequalities are largely caused by differences among children regarding their early experience within their families of origin. We have basic reasons of fairness to remedy these educational inequalities, but liberal societies like ours aim to abide by certain constraints on the ways in which the state may legitimately intervene in our lives. These constraints include a presumption against interventions intended to change how families raise their children.

Because of this, many promising strategies for equalizing education appear to be ruled out as illegitimate. I plan to argue for a much more radical educational reform agenda than liberals have typically thought their theories of justice could tolerate. I hope to establish the legitimacy of interventions intended to equalize the distribution of “educational capital” that children bring with them into the education system. Because children’s families of origin play such an important role in the provision of this “educational capital,” these interventions will aim to influence families’ investment of educational resources into their children both before and during their children’s schooling. Such interventions will include measures to enhance the educational resources which disadvantaged families are equipped to invest in their children, and—more controversially—measures to restrict investments of educational resources provided by more advantaged families.

I have just secured a three-year grant through the Spencer Foundation’s Initiative on Philosophy in Educational Policy and Practice to support this research project.

What does receiving Illinois State’s Research Initiative Award mean to you?

It’s very exciting! I think it can be difficult to see the value of philosophical work, and the role philosophers can play within an intellectual division of labor. And we philosophers haven’t always done a good job of making the value of our work apparent to non-philosophers! I’m very happy that ISU values and supports the kind of work philosophers do.

How has your research influenced your teaching?

My research influences my teaching in every course, but it probably influences my teaching most when I have the opportunity to teach upper-level topics courses, like Educational Justice and Gender, Equality, and the State.

What is the last book you read for fun?

I’m not very good at making recreational reading a priority. I should do much more of it. The last thing I read—Case Histories by Kate Atkinson—was great!

On February 18, Schouten will be recognized at Illinois State University’s Founders Day Convocation as a recipient of the Research Initiative Award.  She is among a select few faculty members honored with this award.

Congratulations to Schouten on this great achievement. The women’s and gender studies program looks forward to her long career of future accomplishments.