• Thomas Jones

Equality or Equity? (Part 2)


I received many thoughtful comments on my last blog post "Equality or Equity?" Some respondents said the level-bench Equality graphic did not represent equal opportunity since only one of the three people was tall enough to see over the fence. They said this illustrated a "rigged game" in which only one participant was positioned to succeed.

My friend Bennie Wiley said "I read the graphics differently. I don't think "looking over the fence" is the endgame. Rather, Equity is when each person can "see the field on which to play." It is then their individual responsibility to put in the effort, discipline and drive to "run down the field" and succeed. I think the choice is between "equality of opportunity" and "equity of opportunity".

Allan Cohen, brother of my friend Hersh Cohen, said "the problem with the distinction between equality and equity is that even talent and discipline don't fully account for "success", and differential outcomes can lead to altered access to future outcomes... Luck can't be perfectly distributed, but can contribute to outcomes that dramatically tilt the playing field. The challenge is to figure out how and when to address the consequences of equal opportunity without creating new lack of opportunity or punishing success."

Some said access to high quality education and healthcare is the "level social bench" for everyone to have equal opportunity to succeed. When I shared the comment of "rigged game" because only one participant is tall enough to see over the fence, some commented that each of us is responsible for finding a fit for our talent with opportunity. Speaking figuratively, the medium-height person may be best suited for occupations such as astronaut, and the short person may be best suited for occupations such as jockey, in which their relative physical stature is advantageous and the tall person is disadvantaged.

What do you think?

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