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BONG HiTS 4 CITIZENS: Civic Education & Political Authority
Unformatted Document Text:  13 more frequent but also more random. 14 Alternatively, we might be more concerned about errors in one direction than in another; we might, for example, prefer agents who systematically err on the side of teaching children to obey the law. 15 We must also consider the position that claims to legitimate authority are not grounded (solely) in judgments about the ways in which that authority is likely to be used: the most appropriate question may not be “who is least likely to err in various ways?” but rather “given that errors will inevitably be made, whose errors are they rightly to make?” Furthermore, we might value decision-making processes for more than the decisions they produce. For example, if deliberation about such decisions produces valuable byproducts for deliberators and/or for society, this might warrant allocating authority in a way that will foster deliberation even if this allocation would not be the most likely to deliver the correct decision. 16 We might also legitimately care about the speed with which decisions can be rendered by different agents, especially given that issues can arise suddenly and that delays in resolution may be costly. We may not want to vest initial authority in the agent that is most likely to decide correctly if the decision will come very slowly 14 A preference for random rather than systematic errors across the education system as a whole might suggest the strategy of dispersing authority among multiple agents. For example, this might be one reason to allow individual teachers, schools, or school districts to decide whether and how to engage students about drug laws rather than mandating a single approach at the federal level. 15 One might argue that in a well-ordered democratic regime it is obviously better for schools to adopt as a default position the promotion of law-abidingness because in such a regime there will be very few laws that one is justified in disobeying. Such an argument neglects the importance of justified selective disobedience of legitimate laws. But it helpfully draws our attention to the fact that an agent’s probability of deciding correctly can typically only be defined once we specify the set of laws about which decisions must be made. A decision procedure that generates a high percentage of false negatives may nonetheless be very accurate when applied to a population with very few true positives. This suggests that allocation of authority over civic education might ideally change with the times. 16 Versions of these two positions partially animate Amy Gutmann’s support for broad discretionary authority over education. See her Democratic Education (Princeton, NJ; Princeton University Press, 1987). Arguments based on the second position are sometimes advanced in favor of the jury system.

Authors: MacMullen, Ian.
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13
more frequent but also more random.
14
Alternatively, we might be more concerned about
errors in one direction than in another; we might, for example, prefer agents who
systematically err on the side of teaching children to obey the law.
15
We must also consider the position that claims to legitimate authority are not grounded
(solely) in judgments about the ways in which that authority is likely to be used: the most
appropriate question may not be “who is least likely to err in various ways?” but rather
“given that errors will inevitably be made, whose errors are they rightly to make?”
Furthermore, we might value decision-making processes for more than the decisions they
produce. For example, if deliberation about such decisions produces valuable byproducts
for deliberators and/or for society, this might warrant allocating authority in a way that
will foster deliberation even if this allocation would not be the most likely to deliver the
correct decision.
16
We might also legitimately care about the speed with which decisions
can be rendered by different agents, especially given that issues can arise suddenly and
that delays in resolution may be costly. We may not want to vest initial authority in the
agent that is most likely to decide correctly if the decision will come very slowly
14
A preference for random rather than systematic errors across the education system as a whole might
suggest the strategy of dispersing authority among multiple agents. For example, this might be one reason
to allow individual teachers, schools, or school districts to decide whether and how to engage students
about drug laws rather than mandating a single approach at the federal level.
15
One might argue that in a well-ordered democratic regime it is obviously better for schools to adopt as a
default position the promotion of law-abidingness because in such a regime there will be very few laws that
one is justified in disobeying. Such an argument neglects the importance of justified selective disobedience
of legitimate laws. But it helpfully draws our attention to the fact that an agent’s probability of deciding
correctly can typically only be defined once we specify the set of laws about which decisions must be
made. A decision procedure that generates a high percentage of false negatives may nonetheless be very
accurate when applied to a population with very few true positives. This suggests that allocation of
authority over civic education might ideally change with the times.
16
Versions of these two positions partially animate Amy Gutmann’s support for broad discretionary
authority over education. See her Democratic Education (Princeton, NJ; Princeton University Press, 1987).
Arguments based on the second position are sometimes advanced in favor of the jury system.


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