Common Error No. 52


52. "Schooling should seek to make children equal."

school.jpg The trouble with notions such as this is that they end up by restraining the talented. Children are not equal. Some are cleverer, some are stronger, some are faster. Some have musical talent, some linguistic and some mathematical. Any attempt to impose an artificial equality on them inevitably reduces down to the lowest common denominator.

Equality is not a good thing in itself. Diversity is. People of different talents will do different things, and be of service to their fellow men and women in different ways. It should be the aim of schooling to try to avoid any waste of talent, to bring out in each child the maximum of his or her potential. This is not achieved by pretending that everyone is equal, and by denying the talented any recognition.

Children might be equally worthy of consideration as individuals; they might be equally entitled to fair treatment. They are done no service, however, if they are taught that a poor performance is the same as an excellent one. Schools which avoid competitive sports or prize-giving ceremonies do their children no favours. The real world outside school is not like that, and they will be ill-prepared for it.

Even equality of opportunity has its limits. Some children will have more thoughtful or more loving parents. Some will have educational opportunities for foreign travel because their parents choose such holidays. Others will have more access to books because their parents keep them about the house. The ultimate logic of total equality of opportunity is the state battery farm. It is, however, a worthwhile goal for society to try to develop the potential of each child, and not to discriminate against any particular groups.

If children are diverse in their talents and abilities, then schooling itself should be diverse, enabling the parents of each child to find an education suited to it.