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Does education level the playing field?

HSBurke's picture

What determines the answer to this question is whether we all have equal access to education, and the answer to that is no. It is impossible for education to level the playing field if not everyone has an equal chance to get there. I like to think of the SAT as an easier way to explain how access can be a hindrance to the possible equalizing effects of an education.

The SAT can be seen as a sort of microcosm of access and equal opportunity in the education system. The most accurate indicator of a student’s SAT scores the family’s income bracket. This means that if someone has enough money to pay for an SAT tutor, it is likely that he/she will score higher than a student who could not afford help.  In the long run, the student with a better score – and the bigger bank account -- has a higher chance of being accepted to college. The word “standardized” in SAT suggests that scores are an accurate representation of the intelligence of the students who earn them. However, as we can see from the example, this is not the case. Because test outcomes can be changed based on financial ability to pay for a tutor, the SAT is not a level playing field for students, although it is advertised as such.

To use Bryn Mawr as another example, while we as Mawrters are extremely lucky to be here, not everyone can attain a liberal arts education. This may be to due to monetary, social or personal factors; but either way, if all the players don’t have access to the field, how can the game be fair?

However, even  if there was a way for everyone to be educated equally, we would still face prejudices when it comes to finding a job. If two people are educated equally, they will continue to be judged based on things such as family background, personal appearance and race/gender – all of which cannot be changed through education.  If students run into barriers both getting to and returning from higher education, it is impossible to say that the playing field is level.