Political liberalism and autonomy education: Are citizenship-based arguments enough?

Philosophical Studies 175 (5):1071-1093 (2018)
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Several philosophers of education argue that schooling should facilitate students’ development of autonomy. Such arguments fall into two main categories: Student-centered arguments support autonomy education to help enable students to lead good lives; Public-goods-centered arguments support autonomy education to develop students into good citizens. Critics challenge the legitimacy of autonomy education—of the state imposing a schooling curriculum aimed at making children autonomous. In this paper, I offer a unified solution to the challenges of legitimacy that both arguments for autonomy education face. I first defend a particular construal of liberal legitimacy, and then consider each legitimacy challenge in light of that construal. I argue that the legitimacy challenges confronting both types of argument can be overcome. Further, I explain why we should pursue both arguments, rather than resting the entire case for autonomy education on one or the other. I conclude that each argument—if it can justify autonomy education at all—can justify autonomy education consistent with the requirements of liberal democratic legitimacy.



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Gina Schouten
Harvard University

References found in this work

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