ON EQUALITY OF EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY by Frederick & Daniel P. Moynihan Mosteller


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A disappointing collection of Harvard-sponsored evaluations of the Coleman Report along with attempts to rework its data more rigorously or with greater methodological sophistication or both. The report, commissioned in 1964 as a big government study to document black students' inferior school conditions, surfaced with the dumbfounding conclusions that the educational facilities used by blacks and whites are roughly equal and moreover that the quality of facilities and even the quality and quantity of teachers seemed to have little relation to educational achievement. What is decisive, according to the report, is the socioeconomic class of the kids your child goes to school with. However, David Armor's reexamination of the Coleman data finds that even black students in integrated and higher socioeconomic environments still achieve at a lower level than whites; this he says is due to their persistently less advantaged status. Other contributors include Christopher Jencks, economists Hanushek and Kain, and Coleman himself, with appendices on problems of measurement. But, for all the social analysis in this book as a whole, the ignorant or malevolent reader could just as well conclude that the poor, the blacks, or both are inherently deficient and therefore ""schools don't count""; that ""schools don't count"" and therefore budget cuts are irrelevant; and so forth. The general squeamishness in dealing with the Coleman conclusion that social class and family background are decisive (a call for vague income redistribution cannot substitute for a critique) is only matched by their fussy concern about survey sampling versus experimental educational methodologies, which is all very well in its place, but here it takes the place of discussion about what education has been and what it is not. Attention assured, in any case.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1972
Publisher: Random House