abstract An appeal to children's authenticity is widespread in major debates in the philosophy of education. However, no evident uniform conception of authenticity informs the dialectic. We begin with examples that confirm this multiplicity. We then uncover a common strand that unifies these seemingly differing conceptions: authenticity is exemplified by motivational elements, such as the agent's desires, when these elements are, in a manner to be explicated, ‘truly the agent's own’. It is this view of authenticity that is the mainstay of a predicament in the philosophy of education: if education entails intentional instilment of certain motivational elements in the child but such intentional moulding, in the absence of the agent's consent, is generally incompatible with authenticity, how is an authentic education possible? We respond by developing a relational account of authenticity that denies that motivational elements are authentic in their own right; they are authentic only relative to ensuring certain ends.