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BONG HiTS 4 CITIZENS: Civic Education & Political Authority
Unformatted Document Text:  10 students that such a law is illegitimate but that (for others reasons that he would presumably specify) they ought not to act contrary to its demands. We should also distinguish between the claim that there is no obligation to obey the law and the stronger claim that there is a moral obligation not to do what the law demands. For my purposes, it suffices to focus on shaping children’s attitudes toward the first type of claim; if one tells students that they have no obligation to obey law X, one has fully answered the question of political authority in that case. The question of whether one has a moral obligation not to do what X demands is not a further question about political authority; it is a broader question about our moral obligations. Since the obligation to obey a particular exercise of political authority is independent of the substantive merits of the demands that it imposes, there are four options for educators who express a position on both these normative dimensions (see fig. 1). Obligation to Obey? Yes No Support 1 3 Substantive Merits? Oppose 2 4 Fig. 1: Options for Educators But, of course, on each dimension there is also a third option for educators, namely, expressing no position. Introduction of this third option in no way compromises the independence of the two dimensions. An educational philosophy might dictate different criteria for deciding whether it is appropriate to express any opinion depending on whether it is an opinion on the substantive merits or on the obligation to obey. So, for example, someone who believes both that law X is unjust and that one should disobey

Authors: MacMullen, Ian.
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students that such a law is illegitimate but that (for others reasons that he would
presumably specify) they ought not to act contrary to its demands. We should also
distinguish between the claim that there is no obligation to obey the law and the stronger
claim that there is a moral obligation not to do what the law demands. For my purposes,
it suffices to focus on shaping children’s attitudes toward the first type of claim; if one
tells students that they have no obligation to obey law X, one has fully answered the
question of political authority in that case. The question of whether one has a moral
obligation not to do what X demands is not a further question about political authority; it
is a broader question about our moral obligations.
Since the obligation to obey a particular exercise of political authority is independent of
the substantive merits of the demands that it imposes, there are four options for educators
who express a position on both these normative dimensions (see fig. 1).
Obligation to Obey?
Yes
No
Support
1
3
Substantive
Merits?
Oppose
2
4
Fig. 1: Options for Educators
But, of course, on each dimension there is also a third option for educators, namely,
expressing no position. Introduction of this third option in no way compromises the
independence of the two dimensions. An educational philosophy might dictate different
criteria for deciding whether it is appropriate to express any opinion depending on
whether it is an opinion on the substantive merits or on the obligation to obey. So, for
example, someone who believes both that law X is unjust and that one should disobey


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