It is difficult for us today to imagine that equal educational opportunity, with which we are so deeply preoccupied, was at one time considered to be if not an evil at least a futile objective, and that those who held such an opinion were completely insincere and even disinterested. For a vertically stratified society equality of education had to be opposed be- cause it would disturb an equilibrium as vital as that of a building. In the Middle Ages only the Church was able to look for new members at the bottom of the social ladder, since ecclesiastical office was not inherited by birth. But efforts in this direction were necessarily very limited, even if only because of the material obstacles to such an aim. Equality of education, as well as any other type of equality could not even be imagined by the aristocracy whose very existence would have been threatened. Its initial indifference was followed by active opposition. When it became possible to formulate the question of the diffusion of education, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the principle itself met with a fundamental objection. The ruling class, idle by its very nature, feared that the workers and especially those on the land would abandon their productive labours, now felt to be degrading, and swell the ranks of the parasites in the cities.
Access to Education
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