A question that educators must consider is what and how much should be taught--the minimum needed? or the maximum time will allow? Do we pace our teaching to the slow student or to the brightest? The question "Can we be excellent and equal, too?" has vexed educators since universal education became feasible--a century or so ago. The question is an oxymoron on the face of it--a self-contradiction: one cannot both excel others and be equal to them. Logic compels us to educate for one or the other--if we grant that excellence requires education and democracy requires equality. Of course, there are many stratagems for dodging the question: tracking, magnet schools, talented and gifted programs, "choice"--all devices of stratification aimed at excellence at the expense of equality--that is, of democracy. But the problem is not peculiarly modern; it has been present to challenge educators apparently from the beginning of history. For the question it poses is at the heart of the mortal enterprise: is the human purpose served best by protecting truth from unworthy hands or by throwing it open to all who come? It is unlikely that we shall find a suitable solution to this age-long dilemma in our deliberations during the next few days, but we may be able to cast it in a different light. And, as one might suppose from this morning's lecture, that light is one of myth.
Cowan, Donald, "Myth as Transformation of Conflict" (1990). Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. 2.