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Title:Liberal Democratic Theory and Issues of Equality of Educational Opportunity
Author(s):Johnson, Michael Neal
Department / Program:Education
Discipline:Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Education, Philosophy of
Abstract:My purpose in this work is to uncover as fully as possible what our professed liberal democratic ideals require of us regarding the present provision of equality of educational opportunity for all. This undertaking is needed because although there is widespread agreement that we are rightly committed to this goal, no similar concord exists about the ways in which our schooling institutions are to fulfill this obligation. As long as such agreement is lacking some members of our society will continue to believe that they are being unfairly treated in these vital matters.
To arrive at this needed consensus I maintain throughout that systematic rather than ad hoc solutions must be developed. Furthermore these resolutions are not to be created de novo but are to be sought in a more refined understanding and consistent rendering of our already made commitments to the values, beliefs, and principles of the liberal democratic tradition.
To this end I investigate John Rawls' book A Theory of Justice which provides a clear and comprehensive exposition of the tradition's major principles and beliefs, as well as arguing convincingly for a set of priorities among its potentially conflicting value commitments. While in the main I defend Rawls' view from its critics both within and outside the tradition eventually I too find it necessary to amend certain of his ideas, in particular those dealing with questions of equal opportunity--its proper conceptualization, the correct relationship between educational and vocational opportunities, the appropriate criteria for differential treatment vis-a-vis opportunities, and finally the institutional arrangements necessary to insure equal opportunities under existing conditions and in a manner consistent with our other liberal democratic values.
Thus I argue for a more progressive conception of opportunity from which follows more enlightened institutional suggestions to replace Rawls' own lackluster recommendations regarding certain key economic and educational institutions offered to satisfy the requirements of his essentially sound principles of justice and the liberal democratic ideals they instantiate. Among my suggestions here are the call for a democratization of our society's productive forces with a corresponding maximinization of job opportunities qua opportunities for self-realization, and set of educational institutions and practices designed to assure for all equal educational achievement to a level commensurate with society's advances in complexity and culture.
I conclude the thesis with a consideration of how well these revised conceptions and institutional suggestions serve to further our considered judgements in two important contemporary problem areas in the provision of equal educational opportunities. Through a discussion of the fairness of tracking procedures and quota practices I demonstrate the advantages of this amended view in the attainment of more consistent and less ambiguous policy guidance regarding questions of equality of educational opportunity. I find that properly understood our commitments to liberal democratic values and equality of educational opportunity preclude the use of such practices. Finally alternative solutions are offered for the difficulties which occasioned these questionable practices in the first instance. As these alternatives are explained it becomes evident that they and the progressive conception of opportunity on which they are based do indeed better fit the rest of Rawl's theory and our overall liberal democratic ideals and beliefs as these have been explicated throughout the thesis.
Issue Date:1981
Type:Text
Language:English
Description:176 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1981.
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/66028
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8114439
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-12
Date Deposited:1981


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