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Autonomy and Schooling

Autonomy and Schooling

Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Autonomy and Schooling
    Book Description:

    Eamonn Callan draws on contemporary work in ethics and social philosophy to outline a theory of the nature and value of freedom and autonomy which supports a range of child-centred policies. He argues for a curriculum which is tailored to the interests of the individual child, even where this would involve early specialization. Compulsory schooling is defended on paternalistic grounds, though it is noted that the scope of justified compulsion may be narrower than we ordinarily assume. Finally, Callan suggests that at the higher levels of schooling there is a strong case for extensive student participation in the government of schools.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6162-5
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-7)

    The publication of Jean Jacques Rousseau’sEmilein 1762 initiated a controversial though somewhat ill-defined tradition in the philosophy of education, a tradition usually referred to as “child-centred education.” The numerous and often outrageous educational strictures and prescriptions found in this remarkable novel are often couched in the language of liberation. Conventional forms of upbringing allegedly enslave the mind, but the radically unconventional education of Rousseau’s child-protagonist is supposed to be faithful to the ideal of freedom. To be sure, Emile is hemmed in by a host of constraints as he grows up, but the point of these pervasive restrictions...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Freedom
    (pp. 8-24)

    In political and educational discourse “freedom” is a word which almost always carries a strongly positive emotional charge. Yet its descriptive content appears to vary widely from one context to another. It is a truism of intellectual history that freedom or liberty – I use the two words interchangeably – has gained the verbal allegiance of everyone; it is equally well known that this shared loyalty does not signify agreement on anything of substance. The free society of the anarchist is not at all like that of the socialist, and when one talks of the free institutions of a parliamentary...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Autonomy
    (pp. 25-55)

    A superficial familiarity with contemporary ethics or political or educational theory will reveal just how prominent autonomy is as an ideal of human character. It forms parts of a configuration of ideas each of which has enormous importance for us: freedom, individuality, and respect. We often think of autonomy as a characteristic of persons essential to the maintenance of a free society. It also seems to be a prerequisite of individuality as that is ordinarily conceived. Certain forms of morally degrading conduct express a lack of respect for other persons in part because they seriously impede the individual in the...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Interests and Schooling
    (pp. 56-87)

    I hope to show that the school can make a vital contribution to an education for autonomy by providing a curriculum which develops students’ interests. The chief advantage of such a curriculum is its power to enlarge the freedom of those subject to it. This rather controversial conclusion has to be defended against a number of counterarguments, which will occupy much of this chapter.

    First, it is necessary to look at the grounds which philosophers of education have used to argue that children’s interests are virtually irrelevant to the selection of curricular aims and content. I also have to contend...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Freedom and Schooling
    (pp. 88-122)

    I have argued that curricula of a certain kind are desirable because of the contribution they would make to self-rule. It does not follow that we have enough reason to compel children to submit themselves to such curricula. It is one thing to establish that some policy or other is desirable, and quite another to show that it should be implemented regardless of the desires of its intended beneficiaries. And if we knew that compulsion were warranted, we would still have to ask about the extent to which it is warranted. It might turn out that compulsory schooling for a...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Government of Schooling
    (pp. 123-150)

    It would be possible to implement the policies for schooling I defended in chapters three and four within the context of benevolent despotism. A curriculum which is interest-based in the sense I have recommended and compulsion which is kept within the limits of morally permissible paternalism could both be realized without extending any authority to students within schools. But sometimes the child-centred demand for the liberation of childhood has been heard within discussion about the government of schooling itself. Giving students a voice within the authority structure certainly brings new burdens and responsibilities into the lives of students, but it...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 151-162)
  11. Index
    (pp. 163-164)