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Liberalism, Pluralism and Education

By Timothy M. Fowler

Abstract

The thesis is an investigation into the proper way a liberal education system should respond to the diversity of opinions that are held in modern societies. The work primarily engages with the philosophy of John Rawls as laid out in his book Political Liberalism. The first section of the thesis defends Rawls' account from its most prominent critics. In particular, I defend Rawls’ response to pluralism. Following this, I analyse the application of political liberalism to education. This reveals a serious problem with Rawls' account: while Rawls responds fairly to pluralism in the case of adults, his model fails to consider the implications of education for children themselves. I develop this objection into an internal problem for Rawls’ theory by showing that children must be counted as full members of the community, which means they cannot be ignored when considering issues of legitimacy. I show that political liberalism, as defended by Rawls, is blind to the effects of different schemes of education on the welfare of children. In light of this, I show that children could reasonably reject Rawls' account; a conclusion which renders Rawls’ model illegitimate.\ud The thesis thus shows that political liberalism fails to deal adequately with the case of education. Further, this case study reveals internal problems with the theory that go beyond the particular example of education. After highlighting this problem, I propose a modification to Rawls' account which can both better respond to the case of education and remain faithful to the core goals of political liberalism. My account is less deferential to parents' wishes than is Rawls’ model, but it does not depend on one contested view of the good life. \ud \u

Publisher: Politics (York)
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.whiterose.ac.uk:1125

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