chapter  one
11 Pages

Educational opportunity and democracy

The uncertainty of society as a whole is reflected in the education system. Most people would agree that the system should give every child an equal chance. There would be much less agreement about how far it actually achieves this, and violent argument about what equality of opportunity entails in practice. These differences of interpretation stem, at least in part, from disagreement about why should provide opportunity. The basis of much educational legislation right up to 1944 was the assumption that lack of money was the chief enemy. Scholarships to grammar schools and later free secondary education for all were equated with adequacy of educational opportunity. If people accept that in a democracy values must be relative, this is not a question that can be settled in general terms: it must depend on the circumstances. Democracy depends in the end on the education of the citizen: it is just as good as the voters who shape it.