Political Liberalism and Citizenship Education


Correspondence: Philosophy, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI, 53201, USA. Email: neufeld@uwm.edu.


John Rawls claims that the kind of citizenship education required by political liberalism demands ‘far less’ than that required by comprehensive liberalism. Many educational and political theorists who have explored the implications of political liberalism for education policy have disputed Rawls's claim. Writing from a comprehensive liberal perspective, Amy Gutmann contends that the justificatory differences between political and comprehensive liberalism generally have no practical significance for citizenship education. Political liberals such as Stephen Macedo and Victoria Costa maintain that political liberalism requires a form of citizenship education that is far more demanding than that suggested by Rawls. Gordon Davis and Blain Neufeld, in contrast, defend Rawls's position. These different views have implications for the content of mandatory citizenship education, understanding of the ‘common school ideal,’ and the scope for educational choice within the framework of political liberalism. However, the differences between Gutmann, Macedo, and Costa, on the one hand, and Davis and Neufeld, on the other, might be attributable, at least in part, to their different foci. Gutmann, Macedo, and Costa focus on non-ideal theory, specifically the contemporary American context, whereas Davis and Neufeld begin, as does Rawls, within ideal theory, and consider non-ideal circumstances from that perspective.