Supplement For Third Class :


Copyright © 2023 Bruce W. Hauptli

I. Questions From Last Time. 


II. Un-Covered Material From Introduction, & Chapter I: States & Education,


A. Introduction:


11-12 “The primary aim of a democratic theory of education is not to offer solutions to all the problems plaguing our educational institutions, but to consider ways of resolving those problems that are compatible with a commitment to democratic values.  A democratic theory of education provides principles that, in the face of our social disagreements, help us judge (a) who should have authority to make decisions about education, and (b) what the moral boundaries of that authority are. 

  A democratic theory is not a substitute for a moral ideal of education.  In a democratic society, we bring our moral ideals of education to bear on how we raise our children, on who we support for school boards, and on what educational policies we advocate.  But we cannot simply translate our own moral ideals of education, however objective they are, in to public policy.  Only in a society in which all other citizens agreed with me would my moral ideal simply translate into a political idea.” 


Really, she doesn’t want to offer solutions?  What does she mean by “considering ways of resolving problems that are compatible with a commitment to “democratic values? 


Is her commitment to democratic values more “basic,” or fundamental than to her “moral values?”  Does she believes her commitment is one all individuals share?  Does she believe all her fellow citizens share it? 


13 “A democratic society is responsible for educating not just some but all children for citizenship.” 


Remember the earlier discussion about ‘all.’ 


14 This education must not be repressive or discriminatory. 


Why not?  95 The democratic purposes of primary schooling constrain as well as empower democratic communities, but not in the name of parental choice, liberal autonomy, or conservative virtue.  The principles nonrepression and nondiscrimination limit democratic authority in the name of democracy itself.  A society is undemocratic—it cannot engage in conscious social reproduction—if it restricts rational deliberation or includes some educable citizens from an adequate education.  Nonrepression and nondiscrimination are therefore intrinsic to the ideal of a democratic society, as parental choice, liberal autonomy, and conservative virtue are not. 


95-96 We value democracy not primarily as a pure process that defines what is just, nor as a perfect process that guarantees justice (defined by some nonprocedural standard).  Rather because it is the best way by which we can discover what a community value for itself and its children.


Also see pps 44-45. 


B. Chapter One: States & Education:


16 “Authority over education is the theoretical issue that organizes this book.  The central question posed by democratic education is: Who should have authority to shape the education of future citizens?” 


22-28 her discussion of The Family State focuses on Plato’s view that the ideal state is one ruled by philosophical experts [philosopher kings]” who exercise absolute paternalistic control over the citizens and the education future citizens.  Plato contends that “the ignorant many” are wholly unsuited for rule, and that the philosophical rulers may tell “noble lies” to the citizens to maintain political control because it is in the interests of the citizens who are incapable of knowledge—and thus cannot rule.  For Plato democracy is a terrible form of government.  Gutmann’s discussion concludes:


28 “the family sate attempts to constrain our choices among ways of life and educational purposes in a way that is incompatible with our identity as parents and citizens.  In its unsuccessful attempt to do so, it successfully demonstrates that we cannot ground our conception of a good education merely on personal or political preferences.  Plato presents a forceful case for resting educational authority exclusively with a centralized state, a case grounded on the principle that knowledge should be translated into political power.  But even the Platonic case is not sufficiently strong to override the claims of parents and citizens to share in social reproduction, claims which I return in defending a democratic state of education.” 


28-33 her discussion of The State of Families characterizes them as ones that place (32) “…educational authority exclusively in the hands of parents, thereby permitting parents to predispose their children, through education, to choose a way of life consistent with their familial heritage.”  She considers John Locke, Thomas Aquinas, and Charles Fried exemplars of this orientation and in the footnote on p. 29 cites the Irish Constitution’s claim that “recognizes the family as he natural primary and fundamental group of Society and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law” as clarification that civil society is a collection of individual families each of which has full authority over the education of future citizens.” 


32-33 “States that abdicate all educational authority to parents sacrifice their most effective and justifiable instrument for securing mutual respect among their citizens. 

  The “pluralism” commonly identified with the state of families is superficial because its internal variety serves as little more than an ornament for onlookers.  Pluralism is an important political value insofar as social diversity enriches our lives by expanding our understanding of differing ways of life.  To reap the benefits of social diversity, children must be exposed to ways of life different from their parents and—in the course of their exposure—must embrace certain values, such as mutual respect among persons, that make social diversity both possible and desirable.” 


33-41 She discusses John Stuart Mill who embraces The State of Individuals which (34) “…responds to the weakness of both the family state and the state of individuals by championing the dual goals of opportunity for choice and neutrality among conceptions of the good life.  A just educational authority must not bias children’s choices among good lives, but it must provide every child with an opportunity to choose freely and rationally among the widest range of lives.” 


35 Her criticism of this orientation builds on the claim that “…the capacity for rational choice requires that we place some prior limitations on children’s choices.  To have a rational sense of what we want to become, we need to know who we are; otherwise our choices will be endless and meaningless.” 


37 She contends that “the same argument that holds against the family state holds against the state of individuals: being right is not a necessary or sufficient condition because parents and citizens have a legitimate interest (independent of their “rightness”) in passing some of their most salient values on to their children.”  Going on to say in the next paragraph “why must freedom be the sole end of education, given that most of us value things that conflict with freedom?  We value, for example, the moral sensibility that enables us to discriminate between good and bad lives.  A well-cultivated moral character constrains choice among lives at least as much as it expands choice.” 


39 “We disagree over the relative value of freedom and virtue, the nature of the good life, and the elements of moral character.  But our desire to search for a more inclusive ground presupposes a common commitment that is, broadly speaking, political.  We are committed to collectively re-creating the society that we share.  Although we are not collectively committed to any particular set of educational aims, we are committed to arriving at an agreement on our educational aims (an agreement that could take the form of justifying a diverse set of educational aims and authorities).”


Who is included in her ‘we’?  She wrote in 1987 and 1999, and I think she clearly believe it applies today—but is this true of all of us, most of us, a majority of us, …?  The importance of this question needs to be emphasized, as is evidenced by the current situation in Florida.  Of course, in February of 2023 any discussion of “states and education “is going to suggest a discussion of the situation in Florida. 


41-47 Finally, she advances A Democratic State of Education in contrast to the other conceptions:


42 the broad distribution of educational authority among citizens, parents, and professional educators supports the core value of democracy: conscious social reproduction in its most inclusive form.  Unlike a family state, a democratic state recognizes the value of parental education in perpetuating particular conception of the good life.  Unlike a state of families, a democratic state recognizes the value of professional authority in enabling children to appreciate and to evaluate ways of life other than those favored by their families.  Unlike a state of individuals, a democratic state recognizes the value of political education in predisposing children to accept those ways of life that are consistent with sharing the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in a democratic society.  A democratic state is therefore committed to allocating educational authority in such a way as to provide its members with an education adequate to participating in democratic politics, to choosing among (a limited range of) good lives, and to sharing in the several sub-communities, such as families, that impart identity to the lives of its citizens. 


44 …a democratic state must aid children in developing the capacity to understand and to evaluate competing conceptions of the good life and the good society.  The value of critical deliberation among good lives and good societies would be neglected by a society that inculcated in children uncritical acceptance of any particular way or ways of (personal and political) life….To integrate the value of critical deliberation among good lives, we must defend some principled limits on political and parental authority over education, limits that in particular require parents and states to cede some educational authority to professional educators. 

  One limit is that of nonrepression. 


45 A second principled limit on legitimate democratic authority, which also follows from the primary of democratic education, is nondiscrimination. 


An important background point here is a contrast between the pluralistic view under consideration and Plato’s view that there is only one good life for human beings—a life n accord of the dictates of deductive philosophical wisdom—and if individuals can not attain the level of philosophical knowledge needed to understand this life, they needed to have this good life imposed upon them.  The idea that there is only one good life has been deeply ingrained in Western Culture (whether the discussion is regarding morality or the good life more generally), though Plato’s particular view has never gained the wide acceptance he hoped for. 


C. Overview:


46-47  -“In the chapters that follow, I treat the theory just sketched as a guide to moral reasoning rather than as a set of rigid rules from which we can logically derive public policies.  The theory of democratic education builds upon a critique of most influential existing theories rather than upon a closed system of self-evident axioms,….It makes no claim to being a logically tight system of axioms, principles, and conclusions that flow from them….The distinctive virtue of a democratic theory of education is that its principles and conclusion are compatible with our commitment to share the rights and the obligations of citizenship with people who do not share our complete conception of the good life.  To the extent that Americans share (or insist on living in a way that requires us to share) this commitment, a democratic theory of education commands our allegiance.” 


D. The Purposes of Primary Education


49 Gutmann says that “…in this and the next two chapters, I explore the potential of democratic authority over primary education, which I take to subsume both elementary and secondary schooling.  This chapter examines the democratic purposes of primary education.  I begin by defending two purposes which are often considered to be in conflict, separately essential to democratic education and together constitutive of “deliberation”….” 


50 The earliest educational experiences are provided by parents and families—training by discipline and example.  These educators are supplemented by day-care centers, friendship circles, schools, as well as religious and civic organizations. 


50- 52 Deliberation and Democratic Character:


50-51 In early schooling they come to experience didactic instruction learning reading, writing and arithmetic by direct instruction and begin to (50) “…develop capacities for criticism, rational argument, and decision making by being taught how to think logically, to argue coherently and fairly, and to consider relevant alternatives before coming to conclusions.” 


51 Because “we” disagree about “what is good,’ we face hard choices, and “children  must learn not just to behave in accordance with authority but to think critically about authority if they are to live up to the democratic ideal of sharing political sovereignty as citizens.” 


Of course, there is a serious tension here as any parent knows!  While good democratically committed parents want their children to behave in accordance with their authority, they also want them to think critically about authority.


The serious tension between these morals is not subject to a strict and unique describable point.  Very young children may have a different amount of leeway, and as children mature what was appropriate earlier may no longer be so.  Similarly in larger social settings. 


While she hasn’t explicitly said so yet, she contends that those who are adept at logical reasoning but lack moral character are the worst sorts of sophists; while but those who have a steady moral character but lack a developed rational capacity “…are ruled only by habit and authority, and are incapable of constituting a society of sovereign citizens.” 


Thus, Gutmann contends, education must feature both these as necessary, but not sufficient traits:[1]


51 taken together, inculcating character and teaching moral reasoning do not exhaust the legitimate ends of primary education in a democracy.  Citizens value primary education for more than its moral and political purposes.  They also value it for helping children how to live a good life in the non-moral sense by teaching them knowledge and appreciation of (among other things) literature, science, history, and sports. 


52 She clarifies that she will focus discussion on the roles schools play rather than on the role played by parents who: 52 “…command a domain of moral education within the family that is-and should continue to be—largely immune from external control.  If there should be a domain for citizens collectively to educate children in the democratic virtues of deliberation, then primary schools occupy a large part of that domain although they do not monopolize it.” 


53-54 Amoralism:


Rather than hold primary schools play no role in moral education, Gutmann contends that schools both do, and should facilitate development of moral character:


53…by insisting that students sit in their seats (next to students of different races and religions), raise their hands before speaking, hand in their homework on time, not loiter in the halls, be good sports on the playing field, and abide by many other rules that help define a school’s character. 


54 Public schools in a democracy should serve our interests as citizens in the moral education of future citizens.  She discusses private schools further on pp. 64-70, and notes that she will discuss the role of private schools in Chapter Four. 


We will need to consider whether a democracy, as she envisages it, can thrive if only some children attend private schools, if many of them do, if a majority of them do…. 


54-56 Liberal Neutrality:


She considers how public schools might fulfill this role.  She believes that those who are committed to the conception of democracy as a state of individuals contend that


55 “…schools should teach the capacity for moral reasoning and choice without predisposing children toward any given conception of the good life or toward a particular moral character…. 

  Liberal neutrality supports the educational method of “values clarification” which enjoys widespread use in schools throughout the United States. 


This view is committed to valuing critical thinking  and rationality but, contrary to what some critics contend, it is not committed to indoctrination:


55-56 the problem with values clarification s not that it is value-laden, but it is laden with the wrong values.  Treating very moral opinion as equally worthy encourages children in the false subjectivism that “I have my opinion and you have yours and who’s to say who’s is right?”  This moral understanding does not take the demands of democratic justice seriously.  The toleration of mutual respect that values clarification teaches is too indiscriminate for even the most ardent democratic to embrace. 


She goes on to argue that those who hold anti-democratic values believing others are not “equal” need criticism not clarification.  Failing to call for this is anti-democratic! 


56-59 Conservative Moralism:


56 Those who are committed the conception of a democracy as a family state “…reject freedom of choice as the primary purpose of primary education.  They see to shape a particular kind of moral character that will be constrained—by either habit or reason, or both—to choose a good life.” 


57-60 Gutmann notes that the core difficulty for such a view is determining which character, and which methods of character development, will be selected for inculcation.  Moreover, schools don’t seem to be well-suited for development of specific characters. 


58 She notes, however, that “schools have a much greater capacity than most parents and voluntary associations…for teaching student to reason out loud about disagreements that arise in democratic politics and to understand the political morality appropriate for democracy.” 


59-64 Liberal Moralism:


59-61 Where those she terms “conservative moralists” would have schools inculcate a particular character and set of moral values, those she terms “liberal moralists would champion schools inculcate 59 “…in children he desire and capacity to make moral choices based on principles that are generalizable among all persons.”   


60-64 Gutmann claims that efforts to do this have not been successful.  Moreover, while she believes this view is preferable to the one that seeks to inculcate a particular character and morality, setting up schools as authoritative arbiters of moral principles is anti-democratic. 


64 In sum, her criticism of the sort of schools those who are committed the conception of a democracy as a family state advance is: “the price of denying democratic authority over schools is dispensing with the democratic purposes of primary education.” 


64-70 Parental Choice:


Problems with the views championed by those who advocate both the state of families and the families of states views lead many parents to adopt and advocate for “parental choice” which allow the options of private education.  While public schooling in the states is the norm, there have been serious inequities which have arisen in states, and notable failures in the education of students, and she will discuss these schools in Chapter 4.  Here she discusses a new movement of parents advocating for public vouchers for private schools:


65-66 to the extent that advocates of voucher plans focus on the rights of individual parents to control the schooling of their children, they rest their defense on the fundamental premise of the state of families….More sophisticated voucher plans…make substantial concessions to the democratic purposes of primary education by conditioning certification of voucher school on their meeting a set of minimal standards. 


Here there is a “mixed” control of the education, and some theorists champion the idea that allowing for a variety of “mixture” might foster diversity.  Gutmann contends that:


70 The problem with voucher programs is not that they leave too much room for parental choice but that they leave too little room for democratic deliberation. 

  The appeal of vouchers to many Americans who are not otherwise committed to a state of families stems…from three facts.  One is that our public schools…are so centralized and bureaucratized that parents along with other citizens actually exercise very little democratic control over local schools.  The second is that only poor parents lack the option of exiting from public schools and this seems unfair.  The third, and most sweeping fact, is that the conditions of many public schools today is bleak by any common-sensical standard of what democratic education ought to be. 



Footnote: [click on the footnote number to return to the passage in the text

[1] The distinction between necessary and sufficient conditions may be made in a number of ways.  Necessary conditions may be described as “those which must be there for an event to occur, or for a concept to apply” (thus paying your parking fines is necessary for graduation); while sufficient conditions are conditions such that the event must occur, or the concept must apply (thus a direct double shotgun blast to the head is sufficient for death).  Note that conditions may be sufficient without being necessary (as in the example), and that necessary conditions need not be sufficient (as in the example).  An alternate way of drawing the distinction is to say that “p is a necessary condition for q” means “if q is true, then p is true” (symbolically q ® p), while “p is a sufficient condition for q” means “if p is true, then q is true” (symbolically: p ® q). 




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Last revised on 03/20/23