Equal Opportunity, Individual Liberty and Meritocracy in Education: Reinforcing Structures of Privilege and Inequality
21 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2015
Date Written: 2002
The paradigm of equal opportunity inevitably seeks to reproduce and maintain structures of class and racial privilege. The deficit story of equal opportunity is as follows: equal opportunity is a truly objective, neutral, and fair method to allocate educational, employment, and political resources to members of society, without regard to race, class, gender or ethnicity. The ideal of equality assumes the possibility of an objective measure of merit under which individuals' free choices and preferences may be evaluated. Accordingly, through the creation of a baseline that presupposes the inherent sameness of all people and disregards systemic discrimination as a fallacy, any social and economic inequality that exists is legitimized as reflecting the natural results of deficient personal choices. As such, any inequities that exist along race, class, or gender lines are due to individual failures.
In this way, the concept of equal opportunity serves to reinforce and reproduce structures of privilege. Accordingly, educational reforms predicated on the concept of equal opportunity fail those groups of people located outside the structures of privilege.
Only when we abandon the rhetoric of equal opportunity and come to terms with the pervasiveness of group privilege may we collectively resist educational inequality.
Keywords: equal opportunity, race
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