Equal Educational Opportunity: What Should It Mean?

Authored by: Gina Schouten

Handbook of Philosophy of Education

Print publication date:  October  2022
Online publication date:  October  2022

Print ISBN: 9781032000053
eBook ISBN: 9781003172246
Adobe ISBN:


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Those who talk about equal opportunity in education mean many different things. This chapter considers several possible interpretations, moving from the relatively less demanding to the relatively more demanding. More demanding interpretations have often been criticized for being too demanding. While different defenses against these demandingness challenges have been offered, this chapter focuses on the strategy of defending demanding standards of equal educational opportunity by clarifying the metric – that is, by answering the question: opportunity for what? While there is no consensus in the literature about precisely which opportunities should be equal for equal educational opportunity to obtain, the reasons we have for caring about equal educational opportunity narrow the pool considerably. Once we align our metric of equal educational opportunity with our reasons for caring about it to begin with, we can see that proponents of demanding interpretations of equal educational opportunity have a compelling response to objections that they are too demanding. The thrust of the discussion is to shift from thinking about equal educational opportunity as equal opportunity for education to thinking about equal educational opportunity as equal opportunity through education.

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