The Illusion of Equality: The Effects of Educational Opportunity on Inequality and Conflict

The Illusion of Equality: The Effects of Educational Opportunity on Inequality and Conflict, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1972, Japanese edition with new introduction, Tokyo: Reimer Shobo, 1976.
By Murray Milner, Jr.

This new book attacks a persistant American illusion--that we can build a more equal and just society by expanding opportunities for education. Milner argues that throughout our history we have expanded the school system in the name of equality of opportunity, but with little or no reduction of inequality. Our preoccupation with educational opportunity, he says, is part of an even broader illusion--that we can bring about equality by providing additional public services (health care, housing, benefits resulting from the war on poverty and so on) for the lower class. This effort is futile. Instead, we must face up to the real problem of economic inequality--the unequal distribution of income and wealth.

The Illusion of Equality provides an analysis of opportunity in education and is relationship to "achievement" and equality in American Society. It an eye-opening exposition of the probable effects of expanding higher education (as we have expanded secondary education) and the various forms of student aid. It is a careful analysis of social conflict in the United States, showing that our preoccupation with equality of opportunity is the source of many of our current problems. Milner's themes are directly related to such explosive issues as race relations, women's liberation, Marxism, and social revolution (both violent and evolutionary). This is a book that is bound to affect--one way or another--the work and thinking of social scientists, economics, and professionals in higher education and in all government.

Part One: Status Inflation and Equality of Opportunity focuses on broad social problems. Milner sees Americans as wearied and frustrated by war, pollution, crime, urban decay, and a divided society. This condition results from what he calls status inflation, the tendency of the status value of any given level of incom or education to decrease as the overall standard of living increases. Thus, the American's impulse to get ahead puts him on a treadmill of status seeking and causes endless striving. Part Two: Expansion of Higher Education and Status Inflation is a detailed analysis of the effects of expanding opportunities for higher education. Milner argues that increased support of education has not in the past and will not in the future significantly affect the social class structure. Part Three: Education, Social Conflict, and Social Change is an analysis of the history of social conflict in this century.