A Comparative Analysis of the Transmission of Socio-Economic Inequalities
Edited by Fabrizio Bernardi and Gabrielle Ballarino
Chapter 1: Education as the great equalizer: a theoretical framework
A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm . . . . Nothing but to show you how a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar. (Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act IV) The gun has been called the great equalizer, meaning that a small person with a gun is equal to a large person, but it is a great equalizer in another way, too. It insures that the people are the equal of their government whenever that government forgets that it is servant and not master of the governed. (Ronald Reagan) Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery. (Horacio Mann) The quotations at the top of this page suggest that weapons, death and education make people equal. A king ultimately faces death as a beggar, an armed small person is equal to a large one, and an educated poor person can overcome the disadvantage and become rich. However, the tomb of a king is usually very different from that of a beggar, if the latter is so lucky as to be buried in one. Moreover, we also know that there are substantial differences in life expectancy between a beggar and a king.