Second Chances for Adults: Your guide to all kinds of education and training opportunities 1978–80

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If it was discovered that a trade-off of this sort exists, one might believe that the pursuit of substantive democratic equality should be curtailed and that an optimal balance among the conflicting justice values should be defined. Some might hold that the point of democratic politics is to produce just laws and policies and substantively just outcomes generally and that substantive democratic equality should have no weight against this fundamental aim and should be pursued just to the extent it is a means to substantive justice. Fair equality of fair opportunity is a severe doctrine.

Its requirements extend far beyond the injunction to eschew public-sphere discrimination. How stringent the policy implications of FEO become depends on the relative priority assigned to this principle as against other fundamental moral requirements. The question arises whether there is some plausible intermediate position that renders equality of opportunity more demanding than formal equality of opportunity but less demanding than FEO.

One such intermediate position already described combines formal equality of opportunity with the additional requirement that society provide good enough opportunities for all its members to develop their native talents so as to become qualified for competitive positions. The idea here would be that there is some threshold level of opportunity to develop one's native talents into skills to which all are entitled. Another possible intermediate position combines formal equality of opportunity with the requirement that present effects of past wrongful violations of formal equality of opportunity should be fully offset.

Second Chances: Education

According to this conception of equal opportunity, if Catholics suffered violations of formal equality of opportunity for many years in a nation in which Protestantism was the officially privileged state-established religion, and these wrongful violations reduced the wealth of Catholics and their descendants, ceasing now to impose any further violations of formal equality of opportunity on Catholics does not establish a regime of genuine equality of opportunity, since some continue to benefit, others to suffer, from past wrongs.

But once recompense is made for past wrongful discrimination, formal equality of opportunity suffices. An extension of this view would hold that the effects of all unjust policies and practices insofar as they affect people's present opportunities to become qualified for competitions regulated by formal equality of opportunity should be undone Buchanan et al.

A third possible intermediate position combines formal equality of opportunity with the requirement that state action should treat all citizens equally and not confer arbitrary advantages on some along with arbitrary disadvantages on others. On this view, even the substantive aspect of equality of opportunity is a deontological requirement, a moral constraint on permissible action, not a specification of a goal that morally ought to be achieved. Call this position the deontological requirement interpretation of equality of opportunity.

Second chances for adults : Your guide ti all kinds of education and training opportunities

Unlike FEO, the deontological requirement does not hold that substantive equality of opportunity is violated if some parents provide better educational opportunities for their children than other parents. The deontological requirement does not specify that a society must establish a system of state-funded education. But if the state does operate schools or provides funds to defray the costs of some children's education, the state violates the deontological requirement if its schools or disbursements of funds to parents earmarked for children do not operate in an evenhanded manner but instead arbitrarily confer advantages on some over others.

Operating schools for Roman Catholics only or paying for the school tuition only of children who attend Roman Catholic schools would be clear cases of violation of the deontological interpretation. A perhaps more controversial example would be the operation by the state of public schools funded by general tax revenues that are formally open to all resident children but are physically accessible only to children who can walk normally or set at a level such that some severely retarded or otherwise cognitively impaired children can gain no benefit from the instruction that is provided.

According to the deontological requirement of equal treatment, these policies would be violations of equality of opportunity if and only if they arbitrarily advantage some children and disadvantage others. The equal treatment norm, strictly interpreted, is a significant constraint on policy choice. Suppose equal treatment is interpreted as requiring that a government service that is provided to some citizens shall be provided to all without discrimination against any group of citizens.

Next imagine that the government proposes to provide health care coverage to all citizens and to ration coverage so as to maximize the number of quality-adjusted years of life QALYs secured by health care. Any scheme of this sort will recommend discrimination against disabled citizens, in the sense that the scheme will tend to recommend provision of treatment to an otherwise able person afflicted with some illness while recommending against treatment of a disabled person afflicted with a comparable case of the same illness this recommendation occurs whenever this course of action is QALY-maximizing Brock Virtually any distributive norm that recommends raising or lowering the level of benefits to be provided for individuals depending on a comparison of costs of provision to well-being gains achieved for the recipient will conflict with equal treatment interpreted as requiring no discrimination among citizens on such a basis.

A problematic but illuminating case is age discrimination Daniels , McKerlie , , ; Temkin chapter 8. A society might establish a state policy that mandates transfers of resources from older to younger citizens, by using public funds to operate schools for the education of children. A society might also follow a health care policy that rations life-preserving care made available to the very old in order to reduce the extent to which expensive medical technology extends the lifespans of very old people with reduced quality of life.

In the same spirit, the society might tilt health care policies toward saving the lives of very young people threatened with premature death. In short, the society enacts coercive state policies that favor the young over the old. Such a policy counts as denial of equal treatment if the units to be treated equally are persons of any age at a given time. The policy is arguably consistent with equal treatment if the units to be treated equally are individuals over their whole lives.

At least, this would be so if all individuals lived through youth to the same old age. In the world in which everyone lived to old age, discrimination against the old would be unlike discrimination in favor of Catholics and against Protestants, or in favor of men and against women, or in favor of whites and against Hispanics.

The exception to all these cases, discrimination against the old would be consistent with equal treatment of each individual over the course of her life. If the unrealistic assumption that all live to the same old age is dropped, then equal treatment with the units to be treated equally being individuals over the course of their lives would seem to forbid any expenditure at all on the health care of the old who have already received more than those who died at a young age.

The example of age discrimination either discredits the equal treatment norm or indicates that it cries out for further interpretation. Surely some denials of literal equal treatment do not violate any plausible equal opportunity norm.


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If the state provides health care coverage to all citizens, the sick will get treatment and the well will get no treatment, but this is not an invidious inequality. One might say all equally are eligible for health care if they need it. But in general, many seemingly morally acceptable state policies will have different effects on different groups of citizens. If a law is passed instituting policies to preserve the environment for future generations, some present citizens will benefit, and some, such as loggers who have been working on old-growth redwoods, will lose.

One might interpret the equal treatment norm as requiring that in the aggregate over the long haul, coercive state policies should benefit roughly all citizens to an equal extent. But why must benefits in the long run be equal for all? On this view, society acting through the state is not required to do anything to offset inequalities it has not caused included in this set of inequalities are many that would be eliminated under a Rawlsian FEO policy. But if the state acts in a way that affects people's life prospects, it should act in an evenhanded way that boosts everyone's life prospects to roughly the same extent.

Notice that the equal treatment norm would be unproblematically satisfied by a state that did nothing for its citizens. Also, if children of wealthy parents will receive excellent education whatever the state does and will have fine life prospects that can be boosted only by a little bit by state provision of education, then equal treatment would seem to require the state to provide only small amounts of state-provided or state-funded education with benefits spread so none get a significantly bigger boost than the children of the wealthy get from state aid.

But see Pogge 44— Consider a stylized example. Suppose that in the U. Now whites on the average have greater wealth and education and blacks have less.

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Suppose that formal equality of opportunity is now proclaimed as the law of the land and embraced by popular morality. Still, most superior positions in society continue to go to whites. In this context a variety of measures might be adopted with the aim of increasing the effective opportunities enjoyed by blacks.

Special educational resources might be channeled to them. For a time, to unsettle the status quo in which whites enjoy the lion's share of social privileges, quotas might be imposed by law or social custom. The quota requires that special preference be given to blacks when employment decisions are made until blacks and whites share in the superior positions and posts of society in proportion to their numbers. Affirmative action programs of this sort might be justified on the ground that in a world where discrimination persists, coercive imposition of quotas helps here and now to bring about greater fulfillment of formal equality of opportunity.

The quota might exert an effect that roughly counter-balances the opposite effect of continuing unacknowledged discrimination. Here is a stylized example that illustrates how this could occur. Suppose that those responsible for making hires are prejudiced, and this takes the form of in effect assigning extra points to white applicants.

A white applicant who merits 60 points on a point scale gets assigned 70 points. If we respond by legally requiring the assignment of 10 extra points to all nonwhite applicants, to offset the bias, the hiring officials might unconsciously respond by boosting the scores of white applicants still further, so that the tilt in favor of hiring whites remains intact.

In these circumstances, if a big if the social planner can estimate what proportion of nonwhite applicants will be more qualified than whites, a rigid quota that requires the hiring of a specified proportion of nonwhite to white applicants can bring about hiring results that do better at achieving formal equality of opportunity than either the policy of letting firms hire as they please or the policy of requiring firms to favor nonwhite applicants by boosting the merit ratings of their applications. Another, more likely scenario is that the two components of the Rawlsian FEO might come into conflict in situations of persistent disadvantage imposed on people on the basis of their supposed race or skin color.

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Suppose that educational opportunities for nonwhites, compared to those provided for whites, are subpar. The result is that individuals of different races with the same native talent and the same ambition face very unequal prospects of competitive success—greater if they are white, lesser if they are nonwhite. Now imagine that an affirmative action plan of reverse discrimination is put into effect.

In violation of formal equality of opportunity, nonwhite applicants are favored over equally qualified whites. Depending on the details of the affirmative action plan, especially the extent to which the plan favors nonwhites over whites, the result might be that while formal equality of opportunity is violated, substantive equality of opportunity those with the same native talent and the same ambition have the same prospects of competitive success is more nearly achieved than it would have been had formal equality of opportunity been sustained.

One might doubt that any good would come of attempts to achieve the substantive equality of opportunity component of FEO by violating formal equality of opportunity. Hiring the unqualified will bring it about that they flounder in their posts, the jobs are less well done, social conflict increases, and society suffers. So one might speculate.

This dismal outcome might or might not come about. Violating formal equality of opportunity to fulfill substantive equality need not dictate hiring the unqualified, just the less qualified. The affirmative action plan might be constrained by a rule that forbids stretching the preference given to nonwhites to the point that basic competence to perform the tasks associated with the post that is being filled is lacking in those selected. In some cases, those denied educational advantages but natively talented may if hired respond with alacrity to the demands of the position in which they find themselves, and learn on the job faster than might have been expected.

But whether the expected consequences generated by an affirmative action plan that violates formal equality of opportunity are bad, good, or neutral, there remains the violation of formal equality of opportunity, which some will view as in itself a grave injustice. Defenders of affirmative action programs that violate the careers open to talents norm might respond in either of two ways to the concern that "Don't discriminate against applicants on the basis of race, sex, creed, or color" is a strict deontological requirement, a constraint on just public policy.

One response would be to uphold the substantive equality of opportunity component of Rawlsian FEO as itself a strict deontological requirement and one that trumps careers open to talents.

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