Fifty years after the Brown decision monumentally drew issues of equality to the fore, equality continues to occupy the theorizing of educational philosophers, the practice of teachers, and the decisions of judges. Within the past year, questions regarding race and schooling, including the intention to eliminate racial inequality, were raised once again in Grutter v Bollinger, the case of a disgruntled white law school applicant who suspected that she was denied admission based upon the criteria of race. In this article, I will trace the history of equality as a concept, a working goal, and an educational right over the past fifty years in PES’s house journal, Educational Theory. This benchmark journal offers a unique opportunity to better understand equality as debated within a specific context of scholars and also exposes the attempts and inadequacies of this journal to fully address the issue. Within the journal, however, I extend my concern with equality to include issues of class and gender, suggestive of the multiple and changing ways in which the topic has been engaged over the years. I recognize, however, that the dynamics unique to each category vary and that none should be entirely collapsed into the other. The Congressional equality reports of the 1960s, the women’s movement of the 1970s, and affirmative action movements within more recent decades, have provoked changes in the philosophical understanding of equality. It has been recast in terms of numerical distribution, equal educational opportunity, inclusiveness of difference, equality of resources, and equality of educational outcomes, just to name a few. I aim to elucidate these changes here in hopes of conveying the significance of the Brown decision, the complexity of the concept, and the pressing task of eradicating problematic inequalities that linger within our schools.
Philosophy of Education
College of Education Journals
McGough, Sarah M. Fifty Years of Equality? Philosophy of Education, 2004, pp 105-114.