Equality, Adequacy and K-12 Education

CMEI Colloquium
Longfellow Hall, Harvard Graduate School of Education
April 5, 2011

In this colloquium, Dr. Rob Reich explores the obligation of a socially just state to provide primary and secondary education. In the United States, the orienting ideal guiding the provision of K-12 education has shifted from equality to adequacy, from attempting to equalize educational opportunity for poor and privileged children to attempting to provide an adequate education for everyone. Dr. Reich assess this shift, and considers the purposes of education both as a public or civic good from which all derive benefit and a private good from which its possessor derives benefit. He argues that there is a legitimate state concern with the private returns to education, in part because of the positional aspects of K-12 education and in part because a socially just state will attempt to ensure fairness in competitions for postsecondary admissions and the labor market. Positionality and a concern for fair competitions require an equality not adequacy aspiration.

Speaker BiographyRob Reich is professor of political science and, by courtesy, professor of philosophy and at the Graduate School of Education, at Stanford University. He is the director of the Center for Ethics in Society and co-director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (publisher of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, both at Stanford University. His current research focuses on the relationship between philanthropy, democracy, and justice. He published Philanthropy in Democratic Societies (edited with Chiara Cordelli and Lucy Bernholz) in fall 2016. He is the author of Bridging Liberalism and Multiculturalism in American Education (2002), co-author of Democracy at Risk: How Political Choices Undermine Citizen Participation (2005), and co-editor of Toward a Humanist Justice: The Political Philosophy of Susan Moller Okin (2009), Occupy the Future (2013), and Education, Justice, and Democracy (2013). He is the recipient of multiple teaching awards, serves as a seminar moderator for the Aspen Institute, and is a board member of GiveWell.org and the magazine Boston Review.