Chapter

COMPREHENSIVE EDUCATIONS AND THE LIBERAL UNDERSTANDING OF AUTONOMY

Shelley Burtt

in Citizenship and Education in Liberal-Democratic Societies

Published in print August 2003 | ISBN: 9780199253661
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191601972 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199253668.003.0008
COMPREHENSIVE EDUCATIONS AND THE LIBERAL UNDERSTANDING OF AUTONOMY

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This is the first of the four essays in Part II of the book on liberalism and traditionalist education; all four are by authors who would like to find ways for the liberal state to honour the self-definitions of traditional cultures and to find ways of avoiding a confrontation with differences. For example, Shelley Burtt argues that the liberal state has good reason to be far more accommodating of traditional groups than liberals commonly recognize. She contends that liberal autonomy, properly understood, is not threatened in any special way by traditional religious or cultural groups, and that traditional cultures are as capable of fostering autonomy as their more cosmopolitan counterparts. Most strikingly, she maintains that it is a good thing, from the perspective of liberal autonomy, to be encumbered by unchosen attachments and loyalties such as those that we might expect to be most fully developed within religious communities. The essay is in two main parts: Part One takes up the challenge of the notion that liberal theorists have missed the chance to describe in detail the possibilities for autonomous thought from within a comprehensive education to a particular way of life or understanding of the good, offering several reasons why the central demand of autonomy – to think and know for oneself – is well within the reach of individuals who receive this sort of ‘grounded’ education; Part Two looks more closely at liberal theories of autonomy, particularly aspects of those accounts that encourage the idea that comprehensive educations are at odds with the development of autonomy, arguing that such characterizations overstate the difficulties that exist, and concluding by reaffirming the possibility of combining an education for autonomy with education toward a comprehensive vision of the good life.

Keywords: autonomy; comprehensive educations; cultural groups; education for autonomy; liberal autonomy; liberal theories of autonomy; liberalism; religious groups; traditional cultures; traditional groups; traditionalist education

Chapter.  12672 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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