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Equality of Opportunity for Citizenship

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There are many putative aims of public education. For example, some claim that the aim of education is to improve happiness and others claim it is to ensure that the economy is strong. Critics may argue that it is no business of the state to determine what goals people should pursue in a pluralist liberal democracy. However, the idea of citizenship and citizenship education enjoys a less controversial appearance. It is clearly the business of educational institutions in a liberal democracy to ensure that adults are capable of contributing to the democratic process as an equal. This seems to be entailed by a commitment to the stability of liberal democracy.

The structure and appropriate content of civic education is a hotly debated topic. While some argue that citizenship education need only be narrow, others have claimed that it requires that citizens develop a significant degree of autonomy. Some claim that since some groups in pluralistic democracies reject the idea of an autonomous life, education for autonomy cannot justifiably be imposed on them. Rather all we can do is offer the opportunity for individuals to develop it if they so choose. Others claim that citizens must deliberate about political matters and so must have developed autonomy, even if this clashes with their religious convictions or frustrates their ability to live a religious life. Others still have argued that the demands of civic education amount to full, and not merely political, autonomy, in any case. In the same spirit, others argue that education for citizenship can help further other desirable goals including a break-down of class divisions. The relationship between civic education and nationalism is also an important question in the education for citizenship literature. Educating for patriotism may seem to be consistent with the preservation of liberal democracy, but care must be taken to ensure that it does not spill over into something much more pernicious.


Arneson, Richard, and Ian Shapiro. “Democratic Autonomy And Religious Liberty: A Critique Of Wisconsin V. Yoder.”. Nomos, Nomos, 38 (1996).

Notes: This paper argues, speaking to the decision made in the Wisconsin v. Yoder case, that the state should develop autonomy through education and that this overrides the parents’ rights for reasons to do with the child’s flourishing.

Callan, Eamonn. Creating Citizens: Political Education And Liberal Democracy. Oxford University Press, 1997.

Notes: The book addresses the problem of maintaining liberal democracy, consistent with a commitment to pluralism about how human lives are best lived. The book identifies two fundamental commitments of civic education in liberal democracies as a sense of justice and liberal patriotism and certain rights that legitimately constrain their realization. The book also addresses practical issues around religious schooling and moral discussion within schools.

Galston, William A. “Political Knowledge, Political Engagement, And Civic Education”. Annual Review Of Political Science, Annual review of political science, 4, no. 1 (2001): 217-234.

Notes: The paper examines education as a tool for enhancing political knowledge and political engagement or participation.

Gutmann, Amy. Democratic Education. Princeton University Press, 1998.

Notes: This book argues for a democratic threshold principle for opportunity in education, which aims at securing for all the conditions under which children can become adults capable of participating effectively in a democracy. The book addresses issues such as higher education, primary education and democratic participation.

Levinson, Meira. The Demands Of Liberal Education. Oxford University Press, 2002.

Notes: The book argues the state has an obligation to develop autonomy in all citizens through education and does so against the arguments of many political philosophers. This book uses empirical research in addition to political philosophy.

Liu, Goodwin. “Education, Equality, And National Citizenship”. The Yale Law Journal, The Yale Law Journal, 2006, 330-411.

Notes: Argues from the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing national citizenship, that a nation-wide floor of educational achievement must be realized to address the large inequalities between states that adequacy law suits have not been able to address as they have typically been within states.

Marshall, Thomas Humphrey. “Citizenship And Social Class”. In Class, Citizenship, And Social Development. Class, Citizenship, And Social Development. Doubleday, 1964.

Notes: The paper discusses the way that citizenship has been understood as linked to civil, political and then social, or welfare, rights of citizenship.

White, Stuart. The Civic Minimum: On The Rights And Obligations Of Economic Citizenship. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Notes: The book sets out and defends an account of the rights and obligations of citizens as they apply to the economy and to economic goods. The book develops an account of fair reciprocity as the appropriate standard for evaluating economic arrangements, this requires that people who benefit also contribute. However, this arrangement must also satisfy other principles of justice such as a civic minimum in order to offer work-related benefits.