Supplement for the Fifth Class


Copyright © 2023 Bruce W. Hauptli


I. Questions From Last Time. 


II. Chapter Five: Distributing Primary Schooling:


127-128 According to Gutmann the principle of nondiscrimination serves as a guide to answering the question “how should primary education be distributed:” it suggests the ideal of equal educational opportunity for all.  But elaboration is needed regarding what resources should be committed to this educational project (rather than to other projects), how should these resources be distributed amongst children, and how should children be distributed between schools? 


Interpreting Equal Educational Opportunity:


128 She discusses three responses to these “distribution problems:”


129-131 maximization: devote sufficient so as to maximize the life chance of all future citizens


129 The hidden weakness of maximization is what may be called the problem of moral ransom.  The rule offers us something morally valuable on the implicit condition that we give up everything else we value. 


131 …democratic citizens should be free not only to set priorities among all the goods that expand educational opportunity, but also to choose between educational opportunity and all the other goods that it excludes. 


131-134 equalization: distribute the resources so that the life chances of the least advantaged children are raised as far as possible toward those of the most advantaged


132 To equalize educational opportunities, the state would have to intrude so far into family life as to violate the equally important liberal ideal family autonomy. 


133 …many differences in educational achievement can be eliminated only by eradicating the different intellectual, cultural, and emotional dispositions and attachments of children 


134 The democratic truth in equalization is that all children should learn enough to be able not just to live a minimally decent life but also to participate in the democratic processes by which individual choices are socially constituted.  A democratic state, therefore, must take steps to avoid these inequalities that deprive children of educational attainment adequate to participate in the political processes. 


134-136 meritocracy: distribute the resources in proportion to children’s demonstrated natural ability and willingness to learn


135 Rewarding dessert is a reasonable way to distribute educational resources above the threshold level, but surly not the only reasonable way. 


136-139 In The Democratic Standard Stated she pulls together the best elements from the three responses to the “distribution problem:”


136 The standard of democratic distribution developed so far can be formulated more precisely as two principles.  Call the first the democratic authorization principle.  It recognizes the mistake in maximization by granting authority to democratic institutions to determine the priority of education relative to other social goods.  Call the second the democratic threshold principle.  It avoids the mistake in both equalization and meritocracy by specifying that inequalities in the distribution of educational goods can be justified if, but only if, they do not deprive any child of the ability to participate effectively in the democratic process (which determines, among other things, the priority of education relative to other social goods). 


138 What constitutes a just distribution of democratic education not only may vary among different democratic societies but also may change quite significantly over time in the same society. 


To illustrate how her distribution principle works, Gutmann turns to two specific distribution problems: financing public schools and educating the disadvantaged. 


139-148 Financing Public Schools:


139-147 Gutmann points out that for a variety of reasons most of the funding for primary education in the United States comes from State and Federal sources.  This presents significant problems for local democratic control of primary education.  Of course the States, and the Federal government, need to allocate funding that provides an adequate level for all school districts while allowing local districts the ability to provide additional resources.  This leaves the question “What level of ability or set of accomplishments should count as adequate?  According to her the commonly applied standard is functional literacy:


147 …having he intellectual capacity to get a job and to make a decent living for oneself and one’s family.” 

  This understanding…is simultaneously too weak and too strong to serve as a democratic standard of adequacy.  It is too weak insofar as many Americans have the capacity to make a decent living but not the capacity to understand the political issues that structure their future choices and the future choices of their society.  Many high school students…lack the prerequisites for effective political participation.  Such skills may be necessary, but they are surely not sufficient for being able to participate effectively in American politics.  By democrat norms, they are functionally illiterate. 


A more democratic definition of functional literacy requires high school students to have the intellectual skills and information that enable them to think about democratic politics and to develop their deliberative skills and their knowledge through practical experience. 


147-148 So here, at the end of the section on Financing Public [Secondary] Schools within the Chapter on Distributing Primary Schooling, Gutmann identifies 148 “the main problem with primary schooling today is not that it does enable high-school graduates to get good jobs


…but that it does not prepare students for democratic citizenship.  


It is important to note that she does not develop what is involved in (147) “…requiring high-school students to have the intellectual skills and information that enable them to think about democratic politics and to develop their deliberative skills and their knowledge through practical experience.”  We will return to this discussion on pp. 273-281 as we address adult illiteracy, and in the “Conclusion: The Primacy of Political Education” (pp. 282-291). 


148-159 Educating The Disadvantaged:


The second “distribution problem” she discusses is whether 148 “for those students who are socially or biologically handicapped, it might be impossible for states to provide enough schooling to enable them to each he threshold, or so expensive as to call into question the moral requirement to bring all handicapped children up to the threshold.” 


148-152 She discusses two cases, Rebecca Paul, an economically disadvantaged first grade student with disciplinary problems who receives no special services, and Amy Rowley a deaf first grade student who receives extraordinary special services. 


150 Amy’s parents took their contention that even more resources should be provided to their daughter to the Supreme Court which ruled against the core additional demand. 


151 “What is striking about Rebecca’s case…is not how much her school must spend to educate her, but how little her school can do to overcome her problems…[and] reminds us that democratic states cannot rely upon schools alone to help children reach the threshold of learning.” 


Clearly the distribution principles require that both students receive special services. 


152-159 Gutmann discusses several studies of the difference spending alone makes, and points out that the severity of the handicap (whether physical or behavioral) certainly needs to be considered.  She goes on to discuss legislation and regulations relating to handicapped education. 


160-169 Integrating Schools:


160 She begins this discussion by noting that children are each other’s educational resources, and that school integration has been an important topic which is relevant to the “distribution of students.” 


Her lengthy discussion of efforts in the last half century leads to a discussion of the role of courts in the situation, and their role in a democratic society and democratic education (a topic she says deserves a book in and of itself). 


168-169 The democratic value of community suggests that judges not impose unnecessary orders on local districts, but he evidence of effective desegregation suggests that only the most thoroughgoing plans are likely to succeed in achieving the democratic value of integration.  In this tension between the values of local community and racial integration lies perhaps the greatest dilemma of democratic education in our time.  Critics and supporters of desegregation alike agree that “moving children around like checkers will not in itself improve matters.”


169-170 But if not integrating schools guarantees bad results, then judge imposing thoroughgoing plans can help reconstitute more democratic communities. 


170-171 The Demands of Democratic Opportunity:


170 Democratic standards require neither that the “inputs” nor the “outputs” of education be equalized.  We need not spend the same amount on very child’s education nor produce equal educational results among children or groups of children.  The democratic interpretation of equal educational opportunity requires instead that all educable children learn enough to in the democratic process. 


171 The demands of the threshold principle are considerable: states should take greater responsibility for financing primary education or for making more effective use of existing resources; the content of education should be reoriented toward teaching students the skills of democratic deliberation; and the federal government should give local schools more money for educating handicapped children. 


III. Chapter Six: The Purposes of Higher Education:


173 Schooling does not stop serving democracy, however, when it ceases to be compulsory—or when all educable students reach the democratic threshold.  Its purposes change.  Higher education should not be necessary for inculcating basic democratic virtues, such as toleration, truth-telling, and predisposition to nonviolence.  I doubt whether it can be.  If adolescents have not developed these character traits by the time they reach college, it is probably too late for professors to inculcate them….


174-175 Control of the creation of ideas—whether by a majority or a minority—subverts the ideal of conscious social reproduction at the heart of democratic education and democratic politics.  As institutional sanctuaries for free scholarly inquiry, universities can help prevent such subversion.  They can provide a realm where new and unorthodox ideas are judged on their intellectual merits; where the men and women who defend such ideas, provided they defend them well, are not strangers but valuable members of a community.  Universities thereby serve democracy as sanctuaries of nonrepression.  In addition to creating and funding universities, democratic governments can further this primary purpose of higher education in two ways: by respecting what is commonly called the “academic freedom” of scholars, and by respecting what might be called the “freedom of the academy.” 


Academic Freedom and Freedom of the Academy:


175 [Academic freedom is] understood as a special right tied to the particular office of scholar, similar in form (but different in content) to the particular rights of priests, doctors, lawyers, and journalists.  The core of academic freedom is the freedom of scholars to assess existing theories, established institutions, and widely held beliefs according to the canons of truth adopted by their academic disciplines without fear of sanction by anyone if they arrive at unpopular conclusions.  Academic freedom allows scholars to follow their autonomous judgment wherever it leads them provided that they remain within the bounds of scholarly standards of inquiry. 

  The proviso of remaining within the bounds of scholarly standards is sometimes overlooked, but it is necessary to justify the social office that scholars occupy…. 


176 Control of the educational environment within which scholarship and teaching take place is the form of academic freedom most neglected by its democratic defenders.  The historical reason for this neglect is not difficult to discern.  Whereas German universities were generally self-governing bodies of scholars who made administrative decisions either collegially or through democratically elected administrators, American universities (with few exceptions) are administered by lay governing boards and administrators chosen by these boards.  Therefore, while the scholar’s right of academic freedom in the German context could readily be extended to a right collectively to control the academic environment of the university, the academic freedom of faculty in the American context had to be used as a defense against the university’s legally constituted (lay) administrative authority. 


177 Scholars and universities that claim academic freedom against interference with their intellectual and institutional pursuits must also acknowledge duties that accompany the right. 


177-181 Gutmann elaborates on the democratic purposes that academics and academic institutions ground these freedoms.  


Educating Officeholders:


181-184 Colleges and universities also serve as “gatekeepers” to many of the most valuable social offices, particularly in the professions.  Their role here, however, is not strictly peaking utilitarian (justified by its social and economic utility).  Professional associations, think tanks, and research centers can similarly foster and support professional development.  However (184) “universities serve democracy best when they try to establish an environment conducive to creating knowledge that is not immediately useful, appreciating ideas that are not presently poplar, and rewarding people who are—and are likely to continue to be—intellectually but not necessarily economically productive.” 


Fostering Associations of Freedom:


189-190 Gutmann cites Derek Bok (President of Harvard University, 1971-1991), who contends that the ideal mutiversity would “avoid undertaking tasks that other organizations can discharge equally well” and commit itself to supplying only those demands for knowledge that are consistent with “the preservation of academic freedom, the maintenance of high intellectual standards, the protection of academic pursuits from outside interference, the rights of individuals affected by the university not to be harmed in their legitimate interests, [and] the needs of those who stand to benefit from the intellectual services that a vigorous university can perform.”[1] 


190-193 While, ideally, a college or university would be a self-administered democratic community committed to democratic education and the free scholarly inquiry, she recognizes that most American institutions fall far short of such a model, but (193) “to the extent that there is an ideal [collegiate] community, it is one whose members are dedicated to free scholarly inquiry and who share authority in a complex pattern that draws on the particular interests and competencies of administrators, faculty, students, and trustees,.  This ideal serves a critique of autocratically governed universities that do Is not secure the academic freedom of their faculty, but it also leaves room for a variety of university communities to flourish, all of which are dedicated to academic freedom but each of which support a different set of intellectual and social commitments.” 


193 A diversity of such institutions provides a solid future for a deliberative democracy! 


IV. Chapter Seven: Distributing Higher Education:




195 [footnote] ...Justice Frankfurter’s often-quoted summary of the “four essential freedoms” of universities in Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 US 234 at 263: “It is the business of a university to provide that atmosphere which is most conducive to speculation experiment and creation.  It is an atmosphere in which there prevail ‘the four essential freedoms’ of a university—to determine for itself on academic grounds who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught, and who may be admitted to study.” 


Of course, the nondiscrimination principle applies to university admissions, but relevant qualifications and equal consideration are important factors in admissions. 


197-202 Academic ability is important, but ability to contribute to the academic life of the community is almost equal importance.  Here creativity, perseverance, emotional maturity, aesthetic sensibility motivation to learn, interest in improving the community (both the institution and the larger one), leadership ability, and capacity to work well with others are all important factors to consider in admitting students (and others) into the university community.  In addition artistic, economic, racial, sexual, and cultural factors are relevant in constituting such a community. 


202-203 Test scores and grade records can not reflect well these factors.  Thus, she maintains, while academic qualifications are the primary factor, many of these other factors are ones which universities may properly consider. 


203-204 As these factors are being weighted and evaluated it is important that “(203) “…similar cases be treated similarly.” 


Racial Discrimination:


204-218 Gutmann addresses discrimination for and against blacks, and use of quotas:


204-207 First she considers fundamentalist colleges which might discriminate against black students because of Biblical commands.  Mentioning Catholic institutions which might discriminate against non-Catholic students, and women’s colleges which discriminate against male students, she concludes that a “purely” racial discrimination against black students violates the non-discrimination principle. 


207-211 She considers two hypothetical cases where admissions places are “set aside for racial minorities:”


210 Why, then, is there so much public resistance to preferential admissions…for blacks?  The simplest, and I thinks strongest, explanation is historical: we have learned from our history to be suspicious of racial classifications because they have been used almost exclusively to subvert rather than to support democratic justice. 


210-211 This danger I mitigate by (a) making preferential treatment the result of a series of autonomous decisions by universities rather than of centrally imposed governmental policy, and (b) requiring the procedures of all universities to satisfy the standards of nondiscrimination.  This would mean that every year, the admissions committees of every university would have to defend their preferences not only for blacks but also for alumni children, athletes, and farm boy form Kansas above otherwise more qualified applicants.  It also means that as our society becomes more egalitarian and the experience of being black becomes less relevant to the educational and social purposes of universities, the case that members of admissions committees make for preferring black applicants over more academically qualified white applicant will become weaker. 


211-218 Finally she discusses admissions quotas.  I will skip over this discussion. 


Compensatory College Education:


218-222 Gutmann notes that “many students today suffer, through no fault of their own, from a sorely inadequate primary education.”  221 Gutmann contends that if a university admitted such students into a remedial program which raised their educational that qualified them for regular admissions such a policy would not be inappropriate. 


Funding Higher Education:


222-222 Given the expense of providing a higher education, universities may discriminate amongst qualified applicants according to their ability to pay for the education, though they may also subsidize expenses for qualified admitted students.  But it is rare a university could provide scholarships or all admitted students. 


222-231 Gutmann notes that in the case of public universities, governments could do more to improve access for students at public universities—and that it is even more permissible for them to provide subsidies for economically disadvantaged students’ costs.  However her discussion draws attention to distinguishing the “economic costs and benefits” of higher education from the “democratic benefits” of such education.  This leads her to:


230 consider the question of the extent to which democratic governments should subsidize private along with –or instead of—public universities.  To answer this question, we must consider whether a purely public, a purely private, or a mixed system of universities would best serve the democratic purposes of higher education.  If—as it appears to be the case, at least in this country—private universities are better able to resist political sources of repression…while public universities are better able to resist private sources of discrimination, such as resistance by trustees and alumni to admitting qualified Jews, blacks, and women, then democratic governments have good reason to support a mixed system of higher education, where both private and public universities flourish….A principled pluralism in higher education depends on respecting the autonomy of private and public universities if but only if they serve their democratic purposes.  Although higher education is not a necessary good for every citizen in our society, it is still necessary that it be distributed in a nondiscriminatory manner. 

  A democratic policy of funding universities cannot rest solely—or even primarily—on a calculation of the economic costs and benefits of higher education…. 


Footnote: [click on the footnote number to return to the passage in the text

[1] Derek Bok, Beyond the Ivory Tower: Social Responsibilities of the Modern University (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1982), pp. 76-77. 


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Last revised on 03/27/23