Friday, April 18, 2014

"Equality of Opportunity": What it Really Means

“Equality of Opportunity” is on the lips of “liberals” and conservatives alike. What does the term mean?

To the Founding Fathers, “equality” meant before the law; meaning, the government protects every individual’s inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness equally and at all times. “Opportunity” meant political freedom; nothing else.

But today, “equality of opportunity” carries a completely different meaning. For example, let’s turn to a Gawker article written last year by Jim Cook, There’s a Simple Solution to the Public Schools Crisis: Let’s Ban Private Schools. Few people openly support legally banning private schools—yet—but Cook’s “solution” is instructive for what it says about “equality of opportunity.”

Public—i.e., government—schools, Cook notes, are beset with “stagnant or declining graduation rates, substandard educations, dilapidated schools, angry teachers, underserved students.”

These problems could be fixed by legally banning private schools, Cook rationalizes, because “Wealthy people tend to lobby effectively for their interests, and if their interests were to include adequate public funding for the schools their children attend,” we’d get better public schools.

But this is just superficial wishful thinking. More fundamentally, Cook believes “there’s also a moral argument for banning private education. . . .

Put simply: Equality of opportunity demands that children should not be penalized—or advantaged—by the accident of their birth. Educational benefits, which are the most crucial resource when it comes to determining the life-outcomes for children of all backgrounds, shouldn't be distributed based on how rich your parents are. They should be distributed equally.

Cook is not primarily motivated by the prospect of people lifting themselves up, but of tearing the best achievers down. In the name of equalizing “life-outcome” “opportunities” for all children, Cook callously demands the sacrifice of superior private schools for the sake of what he readily acknowledges are failing government schools. He demands the government violate the rights (and opportunity) of educators to establish private schools; the rights (and opportunity) of parents to pursue for their children the best schools that, in the parents’ judgment, educators have to offer; and the rights (and opportunity) of both educators and parents to contract voluntarily to mutual advantage.

This is what “equality of opportunity,” in today’s usage, looks like in action. Since life opportunities vary from person to person—e.g., the family a child is born into—the only way to equalize opportunity is to violate the rights and obliterate the opportunities of those who are “advantaged”—i.e., those who excel.

“Equality of opportunity” has morphed into an economic term; the flip side of the socialist coin labeled “equality of outcome.” To secure our liberty and rights—and prevent Cook-like education schemes from gaining political traction in the future—Americans must reject any government attempt to equalize economic opportunity, and demand that it return to its sole legitimate function of protecting the only kind of equality that is just and moral—equality before the law.

Related Reading:

Egalitarian Call to Abolish Schools is Morally Obscene and Economically Absurd

The Problem for Government School Apologists; American Ideals

No comments: