In this article, I trace the history of the substitution of education reform for economic reform in order to ask, and answer, this question: why do we continue to imagine that (higher) education is where we, finally, achieve equality? The substitution of education reform for economic reform begins in the early 1960’s with the landmark “Coleman Report.” I argue that this report, and others that followed, show conclusively that economic inequality simply reproduces itself, and no amount of educational reform can make up for its devastating effects. However, at this very same time, education reformers begin to believe that educational “achievement” is the cause of increased economic opportunity and equality, rather than an effect of (un)equal economic status. This confusion of cause and effect not only distracts us from meaningful economic reform, it also puts tremendous pressure on teachers and institutions. Finally, and fatally, substituting educational reform for economic reform remakes equality itself into something that is earned rather than given.
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Copyright (c) 2021 John Schlueter