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BONG HiTS 4 CITIZENS: Civic Education & Political Authority
Unformatted Document Text:  8 answering the first two questions tells us how the balance among first-order normative considerations ought to be struck, but that still leaves open the second-order question of who should have the authority to strike that balance. Political theorists, in my view, need to engage both the first- and the second-order issues, i.e., a complete theory would tell us both how/what decisions ought to be made and who ought to make them. 9 ) I suggest that development of the required normative political theory should proceed in part through consideration of a variety of actual and hypothetical cases in which it must be decided whether and how educators should/may aim to shape children’s attitudes toward (particular exercises of) political authority. These cases should vary along a number of independent dimensions, including the following: the degree and distribution of actual disagreement about the normative status of the act of authority that is at issue; whether the exercise of authority directly concerns the school’s policy and practice; whether the educational institution and its members lie within the jurisdictional sphere of the exercise of political authority; whether the exercise of authority is currently in force, is a proposal awaiting decision, or has been repealed and is being discussed only in retrospect; the age of the children concerned; whether the school is public or private; whether the exercise is an ordinary law, a constitutional provision, an executive action, a judicial decision, or some other exercise of political authority; and, of course, the specific content of the exercise of authority. 9 Amy Gutmann, by contrast, focuses her political theory of education almost exclusively on the question of legitimate authority: not only does she propose that democratic authorities should be free to err within broad limits, but she also declines in most instances to stake out a first-order normative position that would tell us when democratic decisions are (legitimate) errors. See Gutmann, Democratic Education (Princeton, NJ; Princeton University Press, 1987).

Authors: MacMullen, Ian.
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8
answering the first two questions tells us how the balance among first-order normative
considerations ought to be struck, but that still leaves open the second-order question of
who should have the authority to strike that balance. Political theorists, in my view, need
to engage both the first- and the second-order issues, i.e., a complete theory would tell us
both how/what decisions ought to be made and who ought to make them.
9
)
I suggest that development of the required normative political theory should proceed in
part through consideration of a variety of actual and hypothetical cases in which it must
be decided whether and how educators should/may aim to shape children’s attitudes
toward (particular exercises of) political authority. These cases should vary along a
number of independent dimensions, including the following: the degree and distribution
of actual disagreement about the normative status of the act of authority that is at issue;
whether the exercise of authority directly concerns the school’s policy and practice;
whether the educational institution and its members lie within the jurisdictional sphere of
the exercise of political authority; whether the exercise of authority is currently in force,
is a proposal awaiting decision, or has been repealed and is being discussed only in
retrospect; the age of the children concerned; whether the school is public or private;
whether the exercise is an ordinary law, a constitutional provision, an executive action, a
judicial decision, or some other exercise of political authority; and, of course, the specific
content of the exercise of authority.
9
Amy Gutmann, by contrast, focuses her political theory of education almost exclusively on the question
of legitimate authority: not only does she propose that democratic authorities should be free to err within
broad limits, but she also declines in most instances to stake out a first-order normative position that would
tell us when democratic decisions are (legitimate) errors. See Gutmann, Democratic Education (Princeton,
NJ; Princeton University Press, 1987).


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