Civics Beyond Critics: Character Education in a Liberal Democracy

Civics Beyond Critics: Character Education in a Liberal Democracy

by Ian MacMullen


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Should character formation be a goal of civic education in a liberal democracy? In addition to teaching knowledge and skills, should civic education shape children's values, beliefs, preferences, habits, identities, and sentiments? Most contemporary political and educational theorists who address these questions respond with a heavily qualified yes. They argue that education for civil character is vital to the survival and flourishing of liberal democracy but its content must be strictly limited to avoid compromising its recipients' ability to think and act as critically autonomous citizens. This means that civic character education should not extend beyond inculcating in children the basic and universal moral values that constitute the ideal of liberal democracy itself.

Civics Beyond Critics argues that this orthodox view is wrong to prioritize critical autonomy over three other valuable character traits that have traditionally been fostered by civic education: law-abidingness, civic identification, and support for the fundamental political institutions of one's society. But the best alternative is not simply to reverse the priority. The goal of this book is to show how we can recognize the value of the kinds of character formation that civic education has traditionally involved without losing the portion of the truth that can be found in the orthodox view. Civics Beyond Critics warns against neglecting character traits that, although commonly labeled 'conservative', are realistically essential for the future of all liberal democracies.

Oxford Political Theory presents the best new work in contemporary political theory. It is intended to be broad in scope, including original contributions to political philosophy, and also work in applied political theory. The series will contain works of outstanding quality with no restriction as to approach or subject matter. Series Editors: Will Kymlicka, David Miller, and Alan Ryan.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780198733614
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 05/12/2015
Series: Oxford Political Theory
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Born and raised in England and educated at Oxford and Harvard universities, Ian MacMullen is a Political Theorist who specializes in the Politics of Education and of Religious and Cultural Pluralism. He is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
I: Promoting Compliance with Laws
2. Cultivating Motives for Compliance
3. Evaluating Education for Compliance: A Cost-Benefit Analysis
II: Fostering Civic Motivation
4. Sources of Civic Motivation
5. Doing Without Love
III: Status Quo Bias in Civic Education
6. Status Quo Educational Bias: Its Nature and Sources
7. A Qualified Defense of Status Quo Bias
8. Conclusion: Citizenship and the Limits of Autonomy

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