The following questions illustrate the complexity and far-reaching consequences of the concept of equality of educational opportunity:

  1. In what sense is the meaning of educational Equity dependent upon Equity in larger society at large?

  2. To what extent are talented children from lower socioeconomic classes precluded from receiving a quality public education?

  3. To what extent are able youngsters from racial and ethnic minorities precluded from receiving a quality public education?

  4. To what extent are girls and young women precluded from receiving a quality public education?

  5. Do racially segregated schools constitute a denial of equality of educational opportunity?

  6. Are schools which are homogenous in terms of the social class mix of their students a denial in fact or in principle of Equity?

  7. Does Equity mean that exposure to a given curriculum provides opportunity?

  8. Does Equity mean that school programs should be established in accordance with whatever a child needs?

  9. Does Equity mean that each child should have the same amount of money spent on them through public funds?

  10. Does Equity mean that elimination of all indirect costs of elementary and secondary education?

  11. How much equalization is necessary before we have Equity?

  12. What must be equalized?

  13. Does the concept of Equity contradict or conflict with other social principles?

  14. Is the property tax obsolete as a means of financing our public schools?

  15. What fraction of the total cost of operating the public schools should be borne by the federal government? by the state?

  16. What principles should govern the distribution of federal funds to the schools?

  17. Is busing an appropriate vehicle for bringing about some measure of Equity?

  18. How can the learning gap be closed for economically disadvantaged children?

  19. What role, if any, do teacher expectations play in the matter of Equity?

  20. Is ability-grouping an infringement upon equal opportunity?

  21. Is education a human right?

  22. Is education merely a privilege?

These are just a few of the questions that can and should be asked about equality of educational opportunity.

(p32-33, Italics in original.)

Tesconi & Hurwitz, 1974


“What does equality of educational opportunity mean? What do we imply when we assert that the opportunity of student John Doe to get an education is equal to that of student Jane Smith? Some people argue that since the amount and kind of education a person acquires are functions of his inherent ability to learn, and since this ability varies among persons, educational opportunity ought to be a function of, to be determined by, the ability or capacity to profit from education.

This argument is essentially valid. People do vary in their capacity to benefit from formal education, and most thinkers agree that an educational system should reward its clients unequally in ways corresponding to the unequal distribution of capacities. But this observation is misleading. How do people come by their capacities? In part, and maybe in large measure, individual capabilities are functions of one’s environment, and the principle of equality of educational opportunity is based upon this reality. In short, equality of educational opportunity refers not to inherent capacities, but to the environmental influences that shape and condition the growth and development of the individual. The concept does not denote equality of intellectual and physical capacity of all men in all places. Instead, it rests on assumptions relating to the origins of inequalities. It assumes that social inequalities stand in the way of educational opportunity and, thus, constitute barriers to general equality of opportunity. The key word, then, is opportunity, the opportunity to get an education of whatever amount and kind one’s capacities make possible. It is opportunity that must be equalized.”

(p15-16, Italics in original.)

Tesconi & Hurwitz, 1974


"Debates over the meaning of all men are created equal and equality, then, are not about whether people possess in equal measure the same talents, potentials, etc. They are about the criteria employed and the particular characteristics of persons that are signaled out as the bases for judging equality. Egalitarianism does not strive to eliminate the distinctions among people. It is not a drive for "sameness" or homogeneity. It need not result in what Plato sarcastically prophesied as the elimination of reasonable distinctions between "better" and "worse." It does not suggest universal equality of endowments. Rather, egalitarianism strives to eradicate those norms calling for differential treatment of men which are arbitrary, purposeless, and unconscionable.

Plato recognized, as we Americans are now discovering, that abolition of unconscionable distinctions is no easy task. Indeed, each man has his own criteria as to what is unreasonable and purposeless. Thus, the meaning of the term equality is only part of the problem. Specifying, justifying, and ordering criteria for differential or equal treatment pose numerous other difficulties. Furthermore, those who benefit from arbitrary distinctions are often quite loathe to see them dissolve."

(p7, Italics in original.)

Tesconi & Hurwitz, 1974

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