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Diversity and Distrust

Diversity and Distrust

Civic Education in a Multicultural Democracy

Stephen Macedo

ISBN 9780674011236

Publication date: 03/31/2003

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.

    —Kirkus Reviews


  • Stephen Macedo is the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics and the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University.

Book Details

  • 368 pages
  • 5-7/8 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Press