Threats to autonomy in consumer societies and their implications for education

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The development of autonomy in children is a central concern of liberal philosophers of education. We endorse the liberal intuition that autonomy matters and that it is an appropriate aim of education. However, we divert from autonomy liberals, who defend a rather limited and demanding conception of autonomy that is closely connected with skills of critical thinking and reflection. As a consequence of this conception, they believe that (orthodox) religious education poses one of the severest threats to the development of autonomy. We do not deny the value of their conception of autonomy. Our point, however, is that the inhibition of the development of this kind of autonomy is not by far as serious a problem as the frustration of a more basic form of autonomy that the majority of people are expected to achieve. Focusing on this kind of autonomy, we argue that it is not religious education, but rather certain ingrained features of consumer societies that pose the greatest threats to the development of autonomy. We conclude by offering some suggestions regarding how education can counter these threats. © 2010, SAGE Publications. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-287
Number of pages19
JournalTheory and Research in Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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