What should the aims of education policy be in the United States and other culturally diverse democracies? Should the foremost aim be to allow the flourishing of social and religious diversity? Or is it more important to foster shared political values and civic virtues?
Stephen Macedo believes that diversity should usually, but not always, be highly valued. We must remember, he insists, that many forms of social and religious diversity are at odds with basic commitments to liberty, equality, and civic flourishing. Liberalism has an important but neglected civic dimension, he argues, and liberal democrats must take care to promote not only well-ordered institutions but also well-ordered citizens. Macedo shows that this responsibility is incompatible with a neutral or hands-off stance toward diversity in general or toward the education of children in particular. Extending the ideas of John Rawls, he defends a "civic liberalism" that supports the legitimacy of reasonable efforts to inculcate shared political virtues while leaving many larger questions of meaning and value to private communities.
Macedo's tough-minded liberal agenda for civic education offers a fundamental challenge to free market libertarians, the religious right, parental rights activists, postmodernists, and many of those who call themselves multiculturalists. This book will become an important resource in the debate about the reform of public education, and in the culture war over the future of liberalism.
Macedo makes a strong case for what he calls civic liberalism, a ‘tough-minded’ dedication to democratic institutions and virtues… [Macedo is] often engrossing, as his trenchant analysis illuminates court cases; the history of American schools; the influence of American liberalism on Catholicism; and political thinkers from Locke to Rawls… Macedo embodies the kind of citizen he wants to shape: self-critical, respectful of opponents, and giving and demanding reasons based on shared experience. A serious…answer to the question of how to preserve a common civic life in an era of pluralism.
Diversity and Distrust is a powerful book that examines closely the connections between liberalism’s democratic principles and diversity, religion, and public schooling. Macedo has presented a very thoughtful analysis of what it means to craft a civil society based on shared moral principles. Macedo argues for a firm approach to democratic liberalism and diversity. He also offers a hard challenge to free-market libertarians, the religious right, parental-rights activists and multi-culturalists.
In this stimulating, well-informed work, Stephen Macedo turns to the perplexing but pivotal contemporary issues of diversity, civic identity, and civic education. The view he espouses is distinctive but sensible, and should have broad appeal. He uses historical, theoretical, and policy materials deftly, and writes with an accessibility and clarity that are gifts to the reader.
- 368 pages
- 5-7/8 x 9 inches
- Harvard University Press
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