Ineqality In Education

Inequiality in Education

I have spent sixteen out of my twenty years on this planet, in school. At age four I entered preschool and now at age twenty, as I embark upon my third year in college, school has become second nature to me. Besides my family and friends, school has been the one aspect of my life that has remained constant. In a general sense I hardly ever give it a second thought. Yet on a more specific level, I am constantly buried under an exam for one class, or a difficult lesson in another. It is only when I do begin to reflect upon my formal education in a broader sense, that the topic of equality arises. And in thinking about it as a theme that has run throughout my years as a student, I have come to only one conclusion: Equality is a concept that is supposedly taught to us as an early age, but ironically can never be achieved within the very schools we attend.

On my very first day of elementary school, my Kindergarten teacher introduced herself to the class and shared with us what her aspirations were for the upcoming school year. She listed such things as counting, painting, and she even mentioned reading. Her assumption was that everything that she had to teach us had not already been learned by some of the children, and furthermore she assumed that everyone would have the ability to succeed in all that she had planned. Although I can trust that all of her intentions were innocent and that she meant well, she allowed our entire class to begin its education on unequal ground. This was nothing that I thought about at the time, yet I do remember feeling anxious about reading while my best friend had already been doing so for a couple of years.

This leads me to the argument that equal opportunity does not lead to equal results (a question which arises in E.D. Hirsch¹s book, The Schools We Need and Why We Don¹t Have Them). My best friend and I both had the equal opportunity to learn how to read, yet she already knew how to, where as I had barely begun. At the end of that year, when I did eventually begin to read very simple readers, she was already on to chapter books. Yes we had equal opportunity, but she ended up being a more advanced student with a very different set of results.

My point is that equal opportunity needs to be assessed from the start. Obviously every individual grows up differently. They experience individual circumstances and form their own points of view. What I am saying is that one can not assume equality from the beginning of school, when inequality is something that stems from the moment we are born.

Thinking about inequality in this manner can seem very pessimistic and cynical. That however, is not my intention. Inequality is a word that drags along with it many negative connotations. It brings to mind ideas of perhaps racial inequality, gender inequality, and so on. In the context of education however, I speak of it simply as a given. That everyone is unequal for the sole reason that everyone is individual - every person in this world is different from everybody else. In my opinion this uniqueness needs to be more recognized if our schools are going to produce better results.

Looking back over all of my years of United Stated History, I can not recount the number of times our class would focus on the very subject of equality. We must have read the beginning of the Declaration of Independence fifty times. It is the ideal that our whole nation is supposedly based upon, ³We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among there are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness² (Thomas Jefferson, 1776). Perhaps this is completely true and everyone is granted these rights, yet everyone can have the same rights and still be unequal. For example I had just as much of a ³right² to enter this world as any other newborn, yet we were not created equal if equal means ³the