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BONG HiTS 4 CITIZENS: Civic Education & Political Authority
Unformatted Document Text:  16 and the need for interpretation; describing the major tensions that can be expected to arise between different desiderata; and, finally, suggesting that we can make a crude distinction between ‘progressive’ and ‘conservative’ conceptions of civic education by attending to the tendency to privilege certain desiderata over others in cases of conflict. 20 The first desideratum concerns law-abidingness. Civic education in a legitimate democratic regime properly aims to encourage compliance with the laws as created, interpreted, and executed by its (inevitably imperfect) political institutions. 21 Compliance could be understood simply in functional-observational terms as the fact that behavior tracks the demands of the laws to a high degree, without any further inquiry into the explanation for this phenomenon. But liberal democratic civic education will characteristically aim to encourage law-abidingness in a way that discriminates among the different possible attitudes toward the law that might provide motives for compliance. One reason for this, as we shall see in discussing the third and fifth desiderata, is that there are limits to the obedience that citizens owe to political authority, even when it is exercised through the appropriate democratic institutions, and certain motives are more likely than others to lead citizens to obey if and only if obedience is morally required. Given that citizens will always be imperfect in their identification of the limits to political obligation, a conception of civic education will need to make some kind of trade-off between the expected incidence of type I errors (unjustified noncompliance) and type II errors (compliance in instances where obedience is not morally required and the agent 20 The ultimate goal of my project is precisely to get beyond this crude progressive-conservative polarization. 21 See, for example, William Galston, Liberal Pluralism (Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 118

Authors: MacMullen, Ian.
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16
and the need for interpretation; describing the major tensions that can be expected to arise
between
different desiderata; and, finally, suggesting that we can make a crude distinction
between ‘progressive’ and ‘conservative’ conceptions of civic education by attending to
the tendency to privilege certain desiderata over others in cases of conflict.
20
The first desideratum concerns law-abidingness. Civic education in a legitimate
democratic regime properly aims to encourage compliance with the laws as created,
interpreted, and executed by its (inevitably imperfect) political institutions.
21
Compliance
could be understood simply in functional-observational terms as the fact that behavior
tracks the demands of the laws to a high degree, without any further inquiry into the
explanation for this phenomenon. But liberal democratic civic education will
characteristically aim to encourage law-abidingness in a way that discriminates among
the different possible attitudes toward the law that might provide motives for compliance.
One reason for this, as we shall see in discussing the third and fifth desiderata, is that
there are limits to the obedience that citizens owe to political authority, even when it is
exercised through the appropriate democratic institutions, and certain motives are more
likely than others to lead citizens to obey if and only if obedience is morally required.
Given that citizens will always be imperfect in their identification of the limits to political
obligation, a conception of civic education will need to make some kind of trade-off
between the expected incidence of type I errors (unjustified noncompliance) and type II
errors (compliance in instances where obedience is not morally required and the agent
20
The ultimate goal of my project is precisely to get beyond this crude progressive-conservative
polarization.
21
See, for example, William Galston, Liberal Pluralism (Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 2002),
p. 118


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