More on Ordered Liberty, Civic Virtue, and Mandatory Patriotism

I, too, am delighted to be participating in the discussion of Jim and Linda’s book, Ordered Liberty. And I’ll bite with respect to Kent Greenfield’s post on their chapter on civic education, a chapter that I thought was particularly thoughtful. Kent was troubled by Jim and Linda’s support for the federal mandate that all schools receiving federal funds discuss the constitution on Constitution Day. Kent is certainly right that the Constitution Day discussion requirement was intended by its sponsors to promote patriotism in young citizens. As someone who feels mildly nauseated whenever people are prompted to recite the loyalty oath of the pledge, I heartily agree with Kent’s view that coerced patriotism is, in his words, “a Bad Thing.” It seems to me, though, that the pledge example is actually pretty different from the Constitution Day example, and the difference between them is significant for the nuanced place in which I think Jim and Linda are seeking to situate their version of civic liberalism. I don’t see their version of preferred government as being particularly favorable to encouraging blind loyalty in the country, as would a pledge requirement (I say this despite Jim saying in his responding post that he thinks a pledge requirement would at least be permissible).  And I would argue that civic liberalism shouldn’t even be favorable to inducing non-blind loyalty to the country with recognition of its warts.  What it should instead seek to foster in its young citizens, as Jim and Linda argue, are the political virtues necessary for collective self-government of a liberal character, premised on respect for the political liberty and equality of others. Engendering these virtues requires discussion about liberty and equality, and — to return to the Constitution-Day example — discussing the constitution doesn’t seem like a bad way to go about that. That also makes the Constitution-day requirement very different from the hypothetical that Kent raises at the end of his post regarding the government’s refusing to fund schools that taught courses on Islam; this requirement would foster non-liberal values in students—exactly the opposite of the values that Jim and Linda’s version of civic liberalism calls for encouraging.

Not to appoint myself defender of Jim and Linda’s book here, but I think their positioning on these issues – favoring inculcation of a thicker range of liberal virtues than would, for example, the early Rawls, but not nearly approaching perfectionist liberalism – answers some of the questions posed by Robert Tsai in his post in this symposium. Indeed, their version of civic liberalism doesn’t just organize the conversation, it aims for a nuanced balancing point between these ends. I think Robert is right that Jim and Linda could have fleshed out somewhat more the content of their liberal virtues, and how they would work out conflicts between liberty and civic virtues as applied to a broader realm of policy issues. On the other hand, they needed to leave themselves something to do in their next book . . .

 

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