Redefining Autonomy: The Inconsistency of Liberal Theory in Educaton
Liberal theorists are redefining autonomy to fit their ideological, moral and political perspectives of public education. While many argue that children must be taught to think for themselves; to develop critical and dialectical thinking, they also argue against the teaching of a full spectrum, or equal representation of existing ideas. This circular reasoning is based on the premise that because some traditional and conservative views tend to exclude “autonomous” views, these traditional views should therefore be excluded from curriculum. At the same time, liberal theorists argue for the acceptance and promulgation of progressive liberal views that directly exclude many “traditional” views. How can liberal theorists expect students to become prepared for ‘the right of self-government’ when they are promoting something quite different than autonomy to be taught in the public schools? Further, if liberal theorists want to promote something other than autonomy, then why do they not say so? This paper explores these and other related questions in an effort to move this important educational issue back towards center, concluding that only as theorists and practioners are able to move beyond the rhetoric and acknowledge that specific modes of spiritual and secular learning are integral parts of an autonomous society, can we then move on to the formation of productive and liberating public education policy.
Keywords: Liberal, Autonomy, Education
Research Assistant, Cultural Foundations of Education