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BONG HiTS 4 CITIZENS: Civic Education & Political Authority
Unformatted Document Text:  25 to animals are a good example in this category. The number of public policies that are thought to fall into this third category depends on how expansively one draws the liberal democratic rights or, to put the same point another way, on the degree of attenuation in argument one is willing to accept before insisting that there is no longer a meaningful connection between a right and a policy. 36 What should we say when education promotes features of the civic-political culture that are in tension, perhaps even outright conflict, with liberal democratic rights? Could an appropriate conception of civic education in a liberal democratic state permit educators to promote values that are at odds with liberal democracy? I think not, but I lack a conclusive argument to the effect that cultivating a commitment to liberal democratic rights must always be given priority in civic education over transmitting values that inhere in the traditions of a particular political community. Consider, for example, a time-honored arrangement that violates in some small but significant way the requirements of democracy. Take the reserved seats for Anglican bishops (and representatives of no other religions) in the United Kingdom’s House of Lords. Or consider the vestigial monarchical prerogative powers wielded by the executive in the U.K. Or the fact that the residents of Washington, D.C. are denied a voting representative in the U.S. House and have no designated representative at all in the Senate. 36 Libertarians claim that many of the policies pursued in so-called liberal democracies actually violate liberal rights. And some democratic theorists propose expansive accounts of democratic rights that might similarly diminish or even eviscerate the domain of policies that can be evaluated without reference to individual rights. These are stark reminders of the challenges involved in trying to formulate a conception of liberal democratic civic education against a background of disagreement about the nature of liberal democracy. But they also helpfully foreshadow the requirement (discussed under the fifth desideratum, below) that civic education should equip citizens to think critically about the political community’s prevailing conception of liberal democratic rights.

Authors: MacMullen, Ian.
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25
to animals are a good example in this category. The number of public policies that are
thought to fall into this third category depends on how expansively one draws the liberal
democratic rights or, to put the same point another way, on the degree of attenuation in
argument one is willing to accept before insisting that there is no longer a meaningful
connection between a right and a policy.
36
What should we say when education promotes features of the civic-political culture that
are in tension, perhaps even outright conflict, with liberal democratic rights? Could an
appropriate conception of civic education in a liberal democratic state permit educators to
promote values that are at odds with liberal democracy? I think not, but I lack a
conclusive argument to the effect that cultivating a commitment to liberal democratic
rights must always be given priority in civic education over transmitting values that
inhere in the traditions of a particular political community. Consider, for example, a
time-honored arrangement that violates in some small but significant way the
requirements of democracy. Take the reserved seats for Anglican bishops (and
representatives of no other religions) in the United Kingdom’s House of Lords. Or
consider the vestigial monarchical prerogative powers wielded by the executive in the
U.K. Or the fact that the residents of Washington, D.C. are denied a voting
representative in the U.S. House and have no designated representative at all in the
Senate.
36
Libertarians claim that many of the policies pursued in so-called liberal democracies actually violate
liberal rights. And some democratic theorists propose expansive accounts of democratic rights that might
similarly diminish or even eviscerate the domain of policies that can be evaluated without reference to
individual rights. These are stark reminders of the challenges involved in trying to formulate a conception
of liberal democratic civic education against a background of disagreement about the nature of liberal
democracy. But they also helpfully foreshadow the requirement (discussed under the fifth desideratum,
below) that civic education should equip citizens to think critically about the political community’s
prevailing conception of liberal democratic rights.


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