Education Is Not A Right

There is no US Constitutionally guaranteed right to an education--see

I can understand people wanting to consider education as a right because it is so important for young people's futures. But when people consider something as a guaranteed right, they begin to feel entitled to it with no strings attached. For instance, we do have a 'right' to free speech, but even though this is a right free speech does not mean freedom from consequences--so even w/ rights there are still consequences.

Education is a privilege and should be thought of that way, by both parents and children alike. That is, we have a responsibility to do our best jobs as students and parents, to support all that goes on in education. When I was in school in the 60s, parents, teachers, principals, school boards, and adults were allied to provide children w/ the best possible educational experience. We knew as students that we were supposed to behave and do a good job every single day and that crossing the line w/ a teacher meant swift consequences that would be supported by all other adults involved. Contrary to popular belief, rules and consequences are what children need at school, along w/ good teaching, praise, and support.

In order to provide children w/ the three things they need from education--facts as we know them, good critical thinking / problem solving skills, and a good work ethic / attitude--parents and especially students must do their part of the job--teachers cannot do everything.

Another misconception that people have about education is that is must be 'entertaining', but I couldn't disagree more. You go to a movie to sit back and be entertained--the key phrase is 'sit back'. Education should be instead, 'engaging' (to sit forward), and this is one thing that I would have changed about some of my K to 12 classes.

I have been teaching at the university level for 25 years and consider it my responsibility to engage my students as much as possible--to stimulate them to participate, be involved, ask questions, make comments, and to the degree possible take charge of their own learning. A true partnership in education is needed to allow teachers to spend more time actually teaching and less time 'administrating'. This is a partnership that I had in my best classes from K to Graduate School and it worked very well.

But this is a partnership that has been lost in too many educational situations these days because too many parents and students think that because they are 'paying' for education through taxes or tuition, students are entitled to 'be served'. We are entitled to such service on holiday at a hotel or resort, but not taking responsibility in one's own education is very damaging to education itself, but more importantly to the student. When I last taught in the US at the University of Florida (05 to 08), I found that my sophomore students--although wonderful kids--to be woefully lacking in academic writing skills, factual knowledge, problem-solving skills, and perhaps the worst in a decent work ethic or attitude.  

For the last 30 years our K to College system has been doing an increasingly mediocre job, and there is no sign that this trend is abating. Students in K to 12 now spend less than 50% of their day on 'reading, writing, and rithmatic', and more than half their day in bullying, communication, self-esteem, etc. seminars / workshops. The sum total is that college graduates enter the work place or professional schools without the academic and character elements they need to do a proper job at work. A 2010 study revealed that many types of entry-level employees fail at many types of jobs w/in 18 months--mostly because they are incapable of adjusting to the requirements of work, including taking feedback from superiors, teaming effectively w/ peers, and knowing themselves well enough to cope w/ work place rules and policies.

But it goes much further--college grads of all stripes and from even the best universities are on average much less competent as teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, and scientists. Our rising tide of mediocrity has affected almost all people in all fields.

Look at the problem at Boeing--too much emphasis on quick profit, which meant shoddy engineering. Poor judgment killed 12 shuttlenauts in 1986 and 2003. A few years ago, a focus on profit resulted in a world-wide shortage for flu vaccine, which wasn't even necessary--the whole thing was bogus. The derivatives investment scheme was cooked up by the 'very brightest' economic minds who saw no problem in people investing in something that 'doesn't yet exist'--it's essentially gambling and yet no one in the US government stopped it, resulting in the world-wide economic collapse in 2008.

On a more basic level, the US is now filled w/ citizens who--many of whom are college trained--lack even the most basic common sense and problem solving skills. Few under the age of 35 know how to cook their own meals, know about proper nutrition and exercise, know how to keep themselves healthy, or know even in the most fundamental way how their car or washing machine or stove or plumbing works. Too few American citizens know how to distinguish a good argument from rhetoric--few know how to spell or define rhetoric.

Now our government is growing enormously to protect us from our own stupidity, which means insurance companies, oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, investment houses, health care providers, and virtually everyone else providing goods and / or services can easily convince people to buy things they simply wouldn't need if they had had an education that equipped them with facts and critical thinking skills--if they could think for themselves.

Education is any nation's best insurance for its own survival. In the US we need to return to providing students w/ what they NEED in schools rather than what they want. We have to return to a philosophy that makes facts more important than feelings in academic life, where substance is again more important than surface, and where hard work and earning things are more important than an attitude of entitlement and getting over on the system.

Education is not a right, it is a privilege that we need to take very seriously if we are to dig ourselves out of the whole that 40 years of demanding less and less of our students has gotten us into.
Southpaugh Southpaugh
Jan 18, 2013