Political Philosophy and the Lessons for Faith-based Schools

Educational Studies 28 (3):239-252 (2002)


What does the political philosophy of the last two decades have to teach that might shed light on proposals to increase the number and diversify the types of faith-based community schools? Liberal educators have often expressed concern about the apparent parochialism of faith-based education and favoured instead a more cosmopolitan version of education which aims to take individuals beyond the boundaries of the here and now. In this paper I shall examine ways in which political philosophers have responded to the issue of faith-based schools. These responses can broadly be categorised as liberal, communitarian or, more usually, as attempts to reconcile these two perspectives. Drawing on the moral and political philosophy of Isaiah Berlin, which states that values are plural and often irreconcilable, I shall argue the need, not for reconciliation, but for compromise. Any resolution of the debate about the desirability of faith-based schooling will have to acknowledge a need for choices between irreconcilable values, and whatever strategy is chosen will involve both gains and losses

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