Symposium on Equality of Opportunity and Education

March 22, 2016

Scholars from Stanford's Center for Ethics and the Center for Education Policy Analysis who worked on an equality of opportunity and education project recently published a collection of articles in Theory and Research in Education.

Excerpted from the "Introduction to the Symposium on Equality of Opportunity and Education" Theory and Research in Education, March 2016 (14) 1

Editors: Eamonn Callan, Anne Newman, Rob Reich, Debra Satz

Equality of opportunity is an ideal that finds a place in almost all theories of a just society. This ideal is also prevalent in our own political discourse, especially in debates about education policy. Given the myriad and significant dimensions of individual and collective well-being that flow from education – including health and access to health care, rewarding employment, income, leisure time, and civic participation – equality of opportunity matters deeply in the education realm. And it is within this realm that the meaning of this ideal is perhaps most deeply contested. How should limited educational resources be distributed to best honor equality of opportunity (e.g., by merit, by need)? What inequalities in educational opportunity, if any, are permissible? Can equality of educational opportunity be secured when large inequalities in educational inputs and outputs remain in place?

The papers in this symposium focus on different dimensions of these questions. This symposium is part of a larger multi-year project at the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford, funded by the Spencer Foundation, which examined the relationship between the ideal of equality of opportunity and the public provision of education. The impetus for this issue, and the larger project of which it is a part, is that despite widespread agreement that equality of opportunity is an essential ideal, its meaning, goals, and application to education are highly contested. Gaining greater clarity about this fundamental ideal is especially urgent given mounting evidence about the increasing scope of income and wealth inequality, and the role of educational disparities in exacerbating those inequalities...

Read the entire introduction