In many contemporary societies, the legitimacy of traditional sources of authority is the subject of controversy. The consequent re‐examination of the public policy‐making process has not surprisingly been extended to include the field of education, where diverse social groups seek to exert an influence on decisions. A major problem is the development and application of principles for the determination of legitimate, democratic authority. In this article, the principles adopted are those propounded by the prominent political theorist, Robert Dahl, who postulates three criteria: the Criterion of Personal Choice, the Criterion of Competence, and the Criterion of Economy. Some of the current claims of teachers' organizations to an increased influence in the control of education policy making are assessed in the light of Dahl's criteria and the rival claims of alternative, non‐professional groups are weighed against them. It is emphasised that in a democracy the allocation of authority requires a balancing of both ethical and empirical judgments.
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