Must Liberal Support for Separate Schools be Subject to a Condition of Individual Autonomy?

Abstract

A liberal state based on propositions about the desirability of individual autonomy is bound to be committed to educational programmes which are incompatible with the beliefs and values of parents from non- liberal religious and cultural minorities. One response to this has been support for public funding of those separate schools which offer an education culturally congruent with the values of parents in non- liberal communities. To resolve the potential threat to liberal individualist ideals a condition of support for individual autonomy is usually attached to liberal acceptance of this solution. This condition is in conflict with the motivation which underpins the setting up of such schools. Despite the growing literature on this debate surprisingly little attention has been given to the work of Isaiah Berlin. This article draws on Berlin's version of liberalism developed within the context of a commitment to value pluralism in order to seek clarification of this liberal dilemma.

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