THE ""INEQUALITY"" CONTROVERSY: Schooling and Distributive Justice by Donald & Mary Jo Bane Levine

THE ""INEQUALITY"" CONTROVERSY: Schooling and Distributive Justice

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An interdisciplinary collection of fourteen essays on school effectiveness, economic inequality, distributive justice and educational policy, assembled here to provide perspective on the issues raised by Christopher Jencks' controversial Inequality (1972). Most accept Jencks' conclusion that educational attainment doesn't go far toward explaining income variation in later life though each interprets the assessment in his own way. Christopher Lasch propounds the credentialism theory (though education doesn't affect wage differentials within occupations, the number of years of schooling serve as a prerequisite for access to more lucrative occupations), and others, citing the Coleman report, maintain that education does matter but the amount of money spent on it doesn't. (Daniel P. Moynihan even asserts that spending on schools aggravates inequality as the only ones who benefit are teachers, who already make more money than poor people!) Burton Weisbrod and Jacob Mincer explore the human capital approach to education as an investment; other assumptions examined here are the concept of education as a weapon against poverty, the relatively new conviction that equal educational opportunity should be measured not only in terms of input (money, teacher qualifications, etc.) but also in terms of output, and the now widely discarded belief that the present free enterprise system makes for a genuine meritocracy. Because Jencks proposed giving up on the schools as instruments of economic change in favor of direct income redistribution, the editors investigate the chances (minimal) for politically imposed equality and include a long excerpt from John Rawls' 1971 Theory of Justice, which really sets forth a system of injustice--but rearranged to suit everyone's personal preferences. In his summary Levine questions Jencks' identification of equality of opportunity with equality of results; his closing proposal of ""cost-effectiveness analysis with a system orientation"" to assess the schools seems disappointingly narrow after all of this, but the questions raised throughout will make this required collateral reading wherever the shock waves from Inequality are felt.

Pub Date: Aug. 8th, 1975
Publisher: Basic Books