Does American devotion to equality condemn the country to a pervasive mediocrity? Not necessarily, argues the author, president of the Carnegie Corporation and chairman of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund Panel on Education. But steps have to be taken, Gardner says, to keep it from happening, to prevent the slovenliness he finds in so much of American life from becoming endemic. The author's main contention is that -- without returning to a stratified society -- every person must have some kind of excellence within his reach. Concern for individual fulfillment must be a national preoccupation. Among other things, he says, it must be recognized that everyone does not have the right to be a college graduate any more than everyone has the right to run a four-minute mile. At the same time, a college education should not be made, as it so frequently is, the criterion for respect in the community. An excellent mechanic is as much needed as an excellent corporation president and should be made aware of it. There is room for pursuit of excellence at every academic level and there should be many kinds of educational facilities, besides colleges, available according to ability. A short work, easily read, containing some trenchant observations on the American scene, that might have been improved with fewer generalities and more specifics.