Civic Education: Political or Comprehensive?

In Johannes Drerup, Gunter Graf, Christoph Schickhardt & Gottfried Schweiger (eds.), Justice, education and the politics of childhood: challenges and perspectives. Cham: Springer. pp. 187-206 (2016)
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In this chapter, I consider the problem children, conceived of as future citizens, pose to understanding the scope and limits of Rawls’s Political Liberalism by focusing on the civic education of children. Can a politically liberal state provide all children the opportunity to become reasonable citizens? Or does the cultivation of reasonableness require comprehensive liberalism? I show that educating children to become reasonable in the way Rawls outlines imposes a demanding requirement that conflicts with Rawls’s aim of including a wide constituency in the scope of political liberalism. Rawls’s aim of making reasonableness broadly inclusive for political purposes is in tension with his goal of using reasonableness as the standard that delineates the scope of liberal legitimacy. I argue that political liberalism can and should try to cultivate the reasonableness of its future citizens through the civic education of children. However, a defensible version of political liberal civic education requires introducing a bifurcation within Rawls’s conception of reasonableness. A political liberal form of civic education should aim towards the inclusive scope of reasonableness by cultivating reasonableness in only two of what appear to be three senses that Rawls emphasizes. Teaching children that legitimacy requires embracing public reason demands more than may be justifiably required by a state that seeks to be broadly inclusive.



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Author's Profile

Elizabeth Edenberg
Baruch College (CUNY)

References found in this work

Political Liberalism: Expanded Edition.John Rawls - 2005 - Columbia University Press.
Civic education and social diversity.Amy Gutmann - 1995 - Ethics 105 (3):557-579.
The rights of unreasonable citizens.Jonathan Quong - 2004 - Journal of Political Philosophy 12 (3):314–335.

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