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Book Chapter

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One of the most longstanding debates in educational policy pits the goal of equality against the goal of adequacy: Should we aim to guarantee that all children receive an equal education? Or simply that they all receive an adequate education? The debate is vexing in part because there are many ways to specify “equality” and “adequacy.” Are we talking about equality of inputs (which inputs?), equality of opportunity (to achieve what?), or equality of results (which results?)? Douglas Rae and his colleagues famously argued that there are no fewer than 108 structurally distinct conceptions of equality. And how do we determine what is adequate? To do so, we need some normative understanding of what education is for: Economic independence? Democratic citizenship? Self-actualization? Something else?