Respect-due and respect-earned: negotiating student-teacher relationships

Ethics and Education 4 (1):3-17 (2010)
Respect is a cardinal virtue in schools and foundational to our common ethical beliefs, yet its meaning is muddled. For philosophers Kant, Mill, and Rawls, whose influential theories span three centuries, respect includes appreciation of universal human dignity, equality, and autonomy. In their view children, possessors of human dignity, but without perspective and reasoning ability, are entitled only to the most minimal respect. While undeserving of mutual respect they are nonetheless expected to show unilateral respect. Dewey and Piaget, scions of the same liberal tradition, grant children a larger degree of autonomy and equality thereby approximating the full respect conditions reserved for adults in the prior theories. In this article, after reviewing the premises of respect, I attempt to blend the divide - between minimal and full respect - by separating respect-due from respect-earned . While the former, premised on human dignity, should be granted unconditionally to all, the latter is contingent upon qualities that one possesses or acquires over time. Adding the notion of respect-due is a constraint on the prevalent school practice of turning respect into demands for deference. The relevance of this distinction is discussed in terms of student-teacher relationships
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DOI 10.1080/17449640902781356
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John Rawls (1993). Political Liberalism. Columbia University Press.
John Rawls (2009/2005). A Theory of Justice. In Steven M. Cahn (ed.), Philosophy and Rhetoric. Oxford University Press 133-135.
J. Rawls (1995). Political Liberalism. Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 57 (3):596-598.

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