Equal Opportunity - What's that all about?

Remember the American Dream?

Is it more true for some than for others?

This is, as it happens, a rather complex and for many controversial topic. 

So we aren't going to go into all the aspects of this notion but rather offer a brief discussion of what it is intended to do and expand awareness about its potential benefits.

But First a Full Disclosure: We're in favor of equal opportunity, for reasons that we'll go into below.  BUT we fully realize the various difficulties and abuses that can occur when we try to achieve equal opportunity. 

The fact that efforts to achieve and maintain equal opportunity can fail, or be abused, does NOT mean we have to discard the notion itself.  That would be, as the old adage states, throwing out the baby with the bath water--don't want to do that.

As we often do, let's begin with a definition.

Equal Opportunity is an absence of discrimination, as in the workplace, based on race, color, age, gender, national origin, religion, or mental or physical disability.


What this means is that...

Not everyone has had the same opportunities both in what their backgrounds are and what they've been able to accomplish, and

We shouldn't discriminate between people on irrelevant aspects of the person.

Sources of success:

Elsewhere on this website, we've discussed the sources of success, pointing out that there are as many as three factors (motivation, opportunity, and ability).  Equal opportunity addresses the fact that not everyone has the same chance (i.e., opportunity) to utilize their motivation and/or ability to achieve success.

Leveling the Playing Field:

Leveling the playing field seeks to eliminate discrimination, as in the workplace, based on race, color, age, gender, national origin, religion, or mental or physical disability. It also seeks to compensate for unequal opportunity to develop and maximize a person's skills, abilities and motivations. As such, leveling the playing field is a worthy project. However, as with all such efforts, there can be problems.

Creating a different playing field (leveling the playing field going wrong):

Efforts to level the playing field can fail, either by too little, or too much leveling. In either case, it can result in the creation of new playing field. If and when that happens, performances cannot be compared; person A may do poorly on playing field A, while person B does well on playing field B, but because they are actually on different playing fields, their performances cannot be compared. For example, comparing how fast a fast running person does on a hundred yard dash with how fast a slow running person does on a fifty yard dash would not be appropriate.

Who benefits from equal opportunity?

So the answer to our question is BOTH the individual AND society benefit from Equal Opportunity. 

Now, those who object to Equal Opportunity often see it as simply a way to help individuals, and they think it gives certain people an unfair advantage.  Well, we agree that when equal opportunity is not done appropriately (e.g., by means of quotas), it is unfair (see our discussion of discrimination vs. reverse discrimination).  BUT when it is done the right way, it benefits us all.  It means that those who have the most ability have the best chance to develop and use that ability to the betterment of everyone.

 To read about Social Security: Facts vs. Fiction

 To read about the sources of success

 To read about Discrimination vs. Reverse Discrimination

 To go to the Articles Page