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“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

  • Yemi S.

I've just finished a book written by an author whose views on many subjects differ from my own. This should be an altogether uncontroversial proposition.

If every book I read is a regurgitation of my own ideas or ideas I've read about and agree with in other books, I am unlikely to expand my own mind. I believe it's important to expose one's self to a wide range of thoughts and perspectives because one's view of the world is enhanced when it is formed not merely by the limited experiences available to any single person but also through visiting a broad scope of ideas.

My capacities for understanding are greatly enhance when I engage with differing ideas—not only my understanding of others' thinking but also my own. I can better recognize my blind spots and biases... and where I should pursue further insight. I grow in my ability to recognize how perspective is formed and whom may be more likely to hold specific vantage points.

We live in a time when it is increasingly seen as inappropriate or unnecessary to read the works of authors who hold varying and even opposing views to your own; but I say that when we read, we are less engaging with the author than we are with the text—and to cut one's self off from a textual perspective merely because of ad hominem concerns is to further dim the lights of one's own perspectives.

The read I've just completed doesn't dismiss my thoughts; rather, it enriches them. I am not threatened to know that there are ideas out there that run in some way counter to my own. I am informed by it.

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