David Blacker

in Citizenship and Education in Liberal-Democratic Societies

Published in print August 2003 | ISBN: 9780199253661
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191601972 | DOI:

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This is the third 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. David Blacker’s essay on civic friendship and democratic education develops a Rawlsian conception of civic friendship, the scaffolding of which is necessarily provided by the wide range of comprehensive conceptions of the good that characterize democratic societies. Thus, Blacker argues, a democratic civic education ‘allows citizens to embrace democracy on their own terms, drawing support for democracy’s requisite political conceptions from the perspectives of citizens’ many different secular and/or religious comprehensive doctrines’. For Blacker, a conception of civic friendship that is friendly to citizens’ multiple comprehensive doctrines also entails a substantial lowering of the ‘wall of separation’ between church and state so that courts might be more willing than they currently are to allow the use of state funds to support religious groups, in particular where these groups perform functions within public (common) schools that converge with public interests. The essay concludes by proposing and defending two American educational policy initiatives that are consistent with Blacker’s politically liberal ideal of civic friendship – the revival of a ‘school stamps’ plan first proposed in the 1970s, and a modified version of a ‘clergy in the schools’ programme recently struck down by a federal circuit court in Texas.

Keywords: church versus state; civic education; civic friendship; common schools; democracy; democratic civic education; democratic education; democratic societies; education; educational policy; liberalism; religious groups; traditionalist education; United States

Chapter.  10927 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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