Schools as Ethical or Schools as Political? Habermas Between Dewey and Rawls

Studies in Philosophy and Education 31 (2):109-122 (2012)
Abstract
Education is oftentimes understood as a deeply ethical practice for the development of the person. Alternatively, education is construed as a state-enforced apparatus for inculcation of specific codes, conventions, beliefs, and norms about social and political practices. Though holding both of these beliefs about education is not necessarily mutually contradictory, a definite tension emerges when one attempts to articulate a cogent theory involving both. I will argue in this paper that Habermas’s theory of discourse ethics, when combined with his statements on constitutional democracy and law, manifests this tension for formal education. Through a contrast with Dewey’s social-liberal view of education on the one hand, and the procedural liberalism and its associated view of education, common to Rawls and others writing in the contemporary Anglo-American tradition on the other, the questions of what this means for education and why it matters are raised and addressed
Keywords Jurgen Habermas  John Rawls  John Dewey  Liberalism  Democratic education
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