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ERIC Number: EJ1113126
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 11
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0160-7561
A Capabilities Based Critique of Gutmann's Democratic Interpretation of Equal Educational Opportunity
DeCesare, Tony
Philosophical Studies in Education, v47 p129-139 2016
One of Amy Gutmann's important achievements in "Democratic Education" is her development of a "democratic interpretation of equal educational opportunity." This standard of equality demands that "all educable children learn enough to participate effectively in the democratic process." In other words, Gutmann demands that all children attain essential democratic learning outcomes up to a specified threshold. Gutmann's emphasis on equalizing outcomes up to this threshold reflects her commitment to primary education's role in promoting political equality. Indeed, for Gutmann "'equality' means political equality." Her democratic interpretation of equal educational opportunity is specifically meant to ensure that all children, as future citizens, are prepared for political participation. This is not to suggest that Gutmann's thinking about equality cannot be--or has not been--usefully extended to the non-political aspects of education, but in light of recent and increasing concern over political inequality in the United States and new proposals for how civic or democratic education can help to reduce such inequality, it seems like a particularly relevant time for revisiting Gutmann's interpretation of equality in its original context. This paper attempts to do so by offering a critique of Gutmann's thinking about equality in democratic education. The author argues that Gutmann focuses too intently on democratic learning outcomes and does not consider carefully enough children's opportunities (more precisely, their effective opportunities or real freedoms, that is, their "capabilities") to be educated for democracy. Being attentive to children's capabilities to be educated for democracy helps us to identify significant inequalities in children's educational experiences--inequalities that are often missed by evaluations of learning outcomes or formal learning opportunities.
Ohio Valley Philosophy of Education Society. Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Elementary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A