Graduate studies at Western
Studies in Philosophy and Education 11 (1):31-43 (1991)
|Abstract||Given the current concern in the Soviet Union and East Europe to emancipate public education from its Stalinist past, it is understandable that educators have called for the “humanizing” of education. Yet “humanization” is a none too clear idea and must be approached, I propose, through its opposite: dehumanization. Dehumanization, itself, can be understood as the denial of the dignity of the individual — a cardinal principle of the philosophies that comprise classical and contemporary liberal theory. This principle of the dignity of the individual in turn implies duties for the liberal democratic state to treat all citizens (and for all citizens to treat each other) with equal respect as ends in themselves and equally as choosers of ends, as being, at least in principle, capable of choosing and acting on the ultimate ends in their own lives and as potential “sayers of great words and doers of great deeds” in the common public enterprise.Now in claiming that the principle of the dignity of the individual is central to an understanding of a just and humane society, we do not thereby commit ourselves to those doctrines long associated with liberalism, viz., ontological and moral individualism. The form of political, or united-reformed, liberalism argued for in this paper is clearly compatible with strong forms of community, even authoritarian types of community insofar as they do not transgress the principle of the dignity of the individual as regards informed choice. As decidedly non-perfectionist and agnostic about ultimate goods (tempered by the ban on all public forms of dehumanizing behavior and treatment), this form of political liberalism is neither individualistic nor communitarian, neither capitalist nor socialist (though the state is not indifferent to their fortunes).This rendering of the liberal democratic state sets the requirements for a deep and thorough political education that goes well beyond any familiar example today. In seeking to develop, to “humanize” individuals for a world of thought and action in the common public enterprise, political education — the premier form of education — in a liberal democratic state seeks to develop individuals who are theoretically informed and practically wise — thus the emphasis on the development of rationality in all of its forms. Moreover, despite the formal agnosticism of the state concerning ultimate human ends, a political education requires deep student exposure to and critical assessment of religion, possible ways of life, and those views of the human good that humans throughout history have found worthy of pursuit. And this even if it means that students will come to reject the principle of the dignity of the individual|
|Keywords||humanization democracy liberal theory political education|
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