How Can the Pursuit of Equal Opportunity Be Reasonable in Education?: A Perspective from the Rawlsian Theory of Justice


The question of whether equality, or equal opportunity, is an appropriate goal in education has been hotly contested in the philosophical context. Some have strongly argued that the pursuit of equality, or equal opportunity, necessarily results in significant wasteful spending, or creates undesirable claims, such as 'leveling down' or the disregard of 'family values.' I, therefore, attempt to define reasonable principles that clarify how equal opportunity should be achieved in educational policy and institutions. To do so, I reinterpret and reconstruct John Rawls' theory of justice, and I elucidate how it shapes educational systems. Rawls' theory of justice has conceptually seemed a kind of egalitarianism that cannot avoid the aforementioned problems. However, if the foundations of his theory are examined, there can be found the possibility that the Rawlsian framework provides, while avoiding these problems, appropriate principles for pursuing equal opportunity in education. To this end, I interpret Rawls' theory of justice as a broad 'respect egalitarianism' that, distinguished from 'luck egalitarianism,' seeks equal respect for all; I also point out that according to Rawls, one of the most fundamental conditions of respect consists of securing liberties for each person. This indicates that the principles for providing opportunity aim to not equalize people's achievements, but rather to remove constraints on people's liberties, enabling respect.

Author Information
Hironori Kojima, Tokyo University of Agriculture, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: ACERP2016
Stream: Philosophy - Philosophy and Education

This paper is part of the ACERP2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon