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Even if the word itself is not used, the concept is high on the list of the qualities which an education hopes to bestow upon its pupils. Autonomy translates into its two Greek components as ‘the self’ plus ‘the law’, and is counterposed to heteronomy which comes from ‘others’ plus ‘law’. In other words, autonomy is that quality shown by someone who is self-possessed, self-controlled, self-propelling, self-reliant, all of them properties of a free individual as we hope they will emerge from our schools.

Once we start free-associating in this way, it is an easy matter to group beside autonomy other such values as responsibility, alongside the special emphasis given to the adjective ‘personal’ in our ethics (as in personal choice or personal values). This ...

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