Education, Equality, and Society

Education, Equality, and Society

Education, Equality, and Society

Education, Equality, and Society

Excerpt

Equality has become one of the touchstones of advanced industrial democratic societies. In common with a number of other abstract concepts, equality is enshrined in the real or imaginary political charters of these modern nation states. Any new institutionalisation of inequality is regarded as in some sense an affront to human dignity; the continuance of past arrangements in which inequality is entrenched is scarcely tolerated. Eventually all political parties, whether purporting to be conservative (and so nominally committed to the maintenance of past traditions) socialist, or progressive, have all found it expedient to brandish the idea of equality as one of their explicit goals. Inequality is scarcely to be justified, and political argument proceeds as if man had no past, no differential inheritance, as if a received culture should be regarded as disposable if in any respect its continuance might imply the continuance of inequalities in the treatment, or even in the capacities, of men.

It is not enough to declare the concept of equality 'doctrinaire' and impractical, and it is necessary to recognise that in its name social arrangements have been changed in ways which few would now wish to challenge. Beginning with the extension of religious, political, and social freedom, a conception of the equality of men has clearly been entrenched in the British way of life. Freedom of worship; universal franchise (for adults); equality before the law; the equal and impartial operation of fiscal arrangements; have all become firmly established in a society under the rule of law, in which human dignity is recognised. Equality is a highly abstract concept which is often given concrete application only controversially and with difficulty, but -- in the abstract -- equality pre . . .

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