The “Right” to Education Is the Wrong Conversation

The question of whether or not education is a right is an argument that’s been going on for quite a while. It was debated in 2016, with Bernie Sanders arguing for free college while on the other side, politicians like Chris Christie argued that “earning a degree should actually involve earning it.”

Back in 2008 when Barack Obama was running for president, he campaigned on tax credits for four-year schools. It was a debate even back to the time of the founding fathers, with Thomas Jefferson proposing that “those of intellectual ability, regardless of background or economic status, would receive a college education paid for by the state.”

It’s a highly controversial issue and it’s one with no simple answer. Simply saying that education should be a right and needs to be free simplifies the issue to the point of absurdity.

Education is already considered a right. It’s already codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Article 26 which outright states that “everyone has the right to education.” There may not be a Constitutional amendment to guarantee it as a right, and the Supreme Court has argued against viewing education as a fundamental right in 1973, but it is still commonly regarded as a right and by signing the Declaration of Human Rights, we still recognize it as one, hence why primary education is free. So, debating whether or not education is a right ignores that there’s already an answer.

According to a 2016 study done by the Delta Cost Project, the average cost of tuition for a public four-year school has risen 110% since 1994, and that doesn’t even take into account room and board.

This argument also ignores that simply calling something a right does not guarantee access. Guns are constitutionally protected as a right yet that can still be limited and whether or not it should be is another major debate happening today. Guns are not given away freely.

Ted Cruz, in his debate with Bernie Sanders on healthcare, reworded the argument well. “Rights mean you have the right for government not to mess with you, for government not to do things with you what is a right is access,” Cruz said.

In his debate, he referred to healthcare but the same applies here. Education as a right does not mean education will be given out freely. It means the government will not limit your ability to access education, which it does not. The only limitation is financial and intellectual, not governmental.

There’s also the question of how this would be financed. It’s all well and good to call something free but nothing really is in this world. In 2014, four-year colleges collected over fifty billion dollars in tuition, and that number rises each year.

According to a 2016 study done by the Delta Cost Project, the average cost of tuition for a public four-year school has risen 110% since 1994, and that doesn’t even take into account room and board. That number will only continue to grow, because, as John D Rockefeller Jr. noted back in 1927, more and more people were going to college to get degrees for higher paying jobs than ever before. The reasoning goes that someone going into a higher paying job can pay more for college. That reasoning has held ever since and will continue to hold.

The debate over education and the cost of it has been going on for centuries. It will continue to be argued for a long while to come. The debate over whether or not it’s a right though has been settled. It is but all that means is that the government will not limit access to education. Beyond that, saying it’s a right means very little.

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