The educational limits of ethical cosmopolitanism: Towards the importance of virtue in cosmopolitan education and communities

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Cosmopolitanism has become an influential theory in both political and, increasingly, educational discourse. In simple terms cosmopolitanism can be understood as a response to the globalised and diverse world in which we live. Diverse in nature, cosmopolitan ideas come in many forms. The focus here is on what have been termed “strong” ethical forms of cosmopolitanism; that is, positions which conceptualise moral bonds and obligations as resulting from a shared, common humanity. The view that pupils should be taught that all human beings are equal and, crucially, that this entails a responsibility to take action when human equity is challenged or transgressed, is finding increasing expression within educational literature. The suggestion explored here is that strong forms of ethical cosmopolitanism are limited ways which seriously limits their educational worth. In the final section, it is argued that forms of cultural and political cosmopolitanism (which are part of the lived experiences of intra- and supra-national citizenship) are best responded to by developing the requisite virtues in pupils to engage with diverse and dialogic communities.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-242
Number of pages16
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2012