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Legitimacy of Public Schools

So far I have argued that rather than narrowly focusing on accountability, we should redirect our attention to citizens’ responsibilities to support public schools. Reflecting on the shortcomings of schools and the changing nature of public education, however, reveals that our schools might be facing a crisis of political legitimacy. In this chapter I define political legitimacy, describe its connection to healthy democracy, and reveal how recent changes in education and the climate surrounding it may be causing a decline in the legitimacy of our schools. I argue that enacting citizen responsibility may help to bolster the political legitimacy of functionally public schools, thereby more firmly securing their position as a justified institution within a stable democracy and achieving a better form of accountability. This chapter is admittedly more theoretically complex than the others, but I urge my nonphilosopher readers to stick with it because it describes practices of democracy that we engage in daily but that many people may be unaware of and suggests ways we could do them better. Some philosophical insight may help all of us fulfill our responsibilities and live together democratically in more robust ways.

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