liberalism and republicanism in the classroom

I’m just back from Chestertown, MD (a really nice colonial town

where George Washington slept a lot). I was there to teach some elementary-through-high-school

teachers about classical liberalism versus civic republicanism. The teachers are

folks who use the "We the People Program" produced by the Center

for Civic Education; this is their state summer institute. They seemed to

be pretty interested in the subject, although like all Americans they find it

easier to grasp liberalism than civic republicanism. This is interesting (to them

as well as me), since many of the motivations behind public education are civic

republican rather than liberal. That is: a pure liberal may worry that making

children into good citizens is "mind control" and represents illicit

state support for a particular form of life, whereas a civic republican says that

good government rests on active, engaged citizens—and civic engagement is

inherently good. Social studies teachers are in the business of making good citizens,

yet they are instinctively philosophical liberals. The tension or irony is not

lost on them.

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