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Gutmann, Amy. Civic Education and Social Diversity
1995, Ethics 105 (3):557-579
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Added by: Deryn Mair Thomas

How can civic education in a liberal democracy give social diversity its due? Two complementary concerns have informed a lot of liberal thinking on this subject. Liberals like John Stuart Mill worry that "the plea of liberty" by parents not block "the fulfillment by the State of its duties" to children. They also worry that civic education not be conceived or conducted in such a way as to stifle "diversity in opinions and modes of conduct."' Some prominent contemporary theorists add a new and interesting twist to these common--concerns. They criticize liberals like Mill and Kant for contributing to one of the central problems, the stifling of social diversity, that they are trying to resolve. The comprehensive liberal aim of educating children not only for citizenship but also for individuality or autonomy, these political liberals argue, does not leave enough room for social diversity. Would a civic educational program consistent with political liberalism accommodate significantly more social diversity than one guided by comprehensive liberalism?
Political liberals claim that it would, and some recommend political liberalism to us largely on this basis. This article shows that political liberalism need not, and often does not, accommodate more social diversity through its civic educational program than comprehensive liberalism.

Comment: This article examines the relationship between political and comprehensive liberalism with an eye towards evaluating whether the former encourages a greater degree of social diversity when it comes to models of civic education. Utimately, Gutmann argues that the difference between political and comprehensive liberalism is exaggerated: what matters more, in determining which approaches to civic education facilitate greater degrees of social and individual diversity, is 'a substantive understanding of what good citizenship entails' and what the aims of civic education are. In it's method, this paper is located at the intersection of political philosophy and political theory. For this reason, it might be useful in an intermediate undergraduate or master's level political philosophy course with significant crossover in the political theory / political science discipline. Gutmann focuses heavily on the work of historic and contemporary liberals, including Mill, Rawls, Raz, Galston, and Macedo, so the article may be useful as further reading in courses which examine these authors approaches to civic education, or contemporary approaches to civic education in general.

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