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Friday, February 18, 2005

Education - Is it a fundamental right?

I had two posts that have generated a lot of discussion this past week, and they both were about money! One of them was about gambling, but the one I hope to continue a little higher on the page here is about taxes.

It started with a discussion of the system of taxation, but moved into discussion on the use of taxes - and therefore their validity. The comments section of that post show the previous wisdom dispensed. Here are my questions for consideration:

In an agrarian society, education was not necessary for success. As we moved into an industrialized society, it became more important, but still not critical. Now, as we are in the information age, with more advanced technology in every almost every facet of the workforce, isn't education much more important than ever before?

If its importance has increased, has it increased to the point where universally available education is inarguably beneficial to society?

If it is such a benefit, should our tax dollars be used to provide it? Why or why not? What should they be used for?

I thought I had a grip on this, but now I'm not so sure.

19 Comments:

  • You send your kid to private school and I homeschool mine but we both benefit by paying for the education of all our children. More importantly, our children and grandchildren benefit.

    I believe it is our moral obligation to give our grandchildren a better world than was passed down to us. We can't solve all of tomorrow's problems today, of course, but we can prepare them best we can to deal with those problems. Looking ahead fifty or one hundred years there are really only two things that matter, education and the environment. (By 'environment' I don't just mean nature, but the constitutional environment, infrastructure and the like.)

    By Anonymous Mark, at 3/02/2005 11:25:00 AM  

  • Hammertime:

    Do you want a society where educationis not compulsory? It will cost you more in the long run, monetarily in the form of crime, illiteracy and unemployment, and socially in the form of a society that is not as good as it should be.

    A good education is the ticket to a better life...monetarily, ethically and socially. If you are truly being educated, you are learnign morals and ethics as well as the 'R's'

    By Anonymous John B., at 3/02/2005 11:27:00 AM  

  • In fact, I wholeheartedly believe that education is a key part of the solution for the ills you mention. I do not believe they are THE solution, because education (in the public schools sense) does not make people more moral actors. What it does is dispel ignorance and provide opportunity, both of which are worth our investment.
    John's comments lead me in one of the directions I'd like to go - if education were part of the market system, would the schools be better? The current partial market already offers schools that teach morals and ethics. I believe that many more schools would do so in a capitalist environment where parents, the customers, would have more of a say.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 3/02/2005 11:27:00 AM  

  • Values and character can be taught in schools, even public schools. And they should be taught. We may disagree on a few specifics, but we all agree on the basics. In fact teachers in California are directed to “impress upon the minds of pupils the principles of morality, truth, justice, patriotism, and a true comprehension of rights, duties, and dignity of American citizenship...”

    I'm not sure how much this is emphasized in the real classroom, though. But it could be emphasized.

    The main effect of putting schools in the marketplace, say by vouchers, is to greatly vary the educational experience of each student. This means some will get values emphasizes, others will not. Many of the most popular charter schools today put values first and classical education second, but the values are from a liberal perspective.

    By Anonymous Mark, at 3/02/2005 11:28:00 AM  

  • There are two main benefits to putting schools in the free market. The first is school choice, every child leans differently and every parent has different goals, the greater the choice the greater the opportunity for a perfect fit.

    The second benefit is the evolutionary property of the free market will quickly show us which kinds of schools work best and which fail. The concern is the definition of 'work best' will be completely determined by the will of individual parents. I'm not saying that is a bad thing, but it does mean things like advertising and big promises could sway opinion more than actual education.

    By Anonymous Mark, at 3/02/2005 11:28:00 AM  

  • Mark, this part...

    "The second benefit is the evolutionary property of the free market will quickly show us which kinds of schools work best and which fail." Bingo!

    John B.,
    I find your arguments most troubling. Ever time I have debated someone who holds this view (present company excluded I'm sure) I have, at the bottom, found a person who doesn't trust mankind...who holds a low opinion of people in general...who feel that, for their own good, peoples' freedom must somehow be infringed. The teaching of values, morals, ethics should not occur in the classroom. Attendance to public education (or any education at all) should NOT be compulsory.

    By Anonymous David Hunley, at 3/02/2005 11:29:00 AM  

  • David, do you believe access to education should be free? To me, the answer is obviously yes. I more or less agree with you on the compulsory thing because 'education' can be hard to define. I know of people who 'unschool' as a form of home schooling. It doesn't meet any normal definition of education but instead guides the child to treat every moment as a learning opportunity. That doesn't work for everyone but works for some families very well.

    That said, basic literacy must be obtained by all, so we need to be careful, here.

    By Anonymous Mark, at 3/02/2005 11:29:00 AM  

  • Mark,

    Yes, education should be available for free to everyone. I'd even consider making a college education free (merit based) because I believe it to be an investment that has reaped rewards many times over what we've invested.
    My problem is almost solely the compulsory aspect. You should be free to choose, but to take advantage of that choice, students must maintain certain standards of behavior (most importantly) and achievement. This behavior would most certainly not include drug use, violence, or destruction of property. If a parent disagrees with what those standards include, they can opt out.
    Yes, we need to be careful, and this includes, even, the projection onto others our opinion concerning the value of education. By extension, I guess this means that I don't believe basic literacy must be maintained---but I suspect it will because education IS INDEED an advantage that people will eagerly make the most of.

    By Anonymous David Hunley, at 3/02/2005 11:30:00 AM  

  • May I point out that a "compulsory public education system" is not actually working all that well today. The literacy rate in our country (real literacy, not a high school diploma) is under 80% and has been steadily dropping for decades.

    The question we have to ask ourselves is what system will provide best for everyone, not just the wealthy and privileged, not just the poor and unprivileged. The truth is that a monopolistic system is always worst for the poor and unprivileged, not for the wealthy. So far I may sound socialist, but the reality is that, unlike a socialist, I believe the free market, individualism and individual responsibility is the ticket to each and every citizen having the best opportunity. I plan to post on this on my blog soon and I'll ping you with a trackback when I do.

    By Anonymous Eric Cowperthwaite, at 3/02/2005 11:31:00 AM  

  • Eric,

    I had several statistics saying basically the same...but it didn't really further my point and haloscan is to be respected...lol. What separates, I think, your idea from a socialist concept is that it be "offered" rather than "required"...makes all the difference. During my MAED classes I was inundated by learning theories, learning styles, ideas about holistic approaches, Piaget this, Horace Mann that, endless "step" programs and just on and on. And in every single case, each could have been (and has been) accomplished by a competent teacher since there was such a thing as teacher.
    Personally...and it'd take a little more to explain in depth...but I think the damage our current public education is doing to America is far worse than just giving diplomas to that 20 percent that can't read.

    By Anonymous David Hunley, at 3/02/2005 11:32:00 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous Eric Cowperthwaite, at 3/02/2005 11:40:00 AM  

  • David, I'm with you pretty much all the way, except for this statement:

    I'd even consider making a college education free

    Not that the idea of "free education" isn't appealing, it is. Rather, there is no such thing as a free education. TANSTAAFL always applies. That education must be paid for somehow. Today we pay for it through compulsory taxation. That doesn't mean that is the only means to do so. I suggest that "public institutions" would be more efficient and provide better service if they had to compete in a free market. Obviously they are not performing well at all as a monopoly. I ask what we have to lose?

    By Anonymous Eric Cowperthwaite, at 3/02/2005 11:42:00 AM  

  • Eric,

    Yep...you're right. I should have made it clearer that I meant "free" to the college student. I also realize a "free" education isn't working so well at the primary levels...but I'm hoping that benefit is negated somewhat by the fact that it is compulsory.

    By Anonymous David Hunley, at 3/02/2005 11:42:00 AM  

  • Here at my university, I have noticed a problem that may have some relevance to this thread: there are already a lot of people in college that don't belong there.

    What do I mean? We had record numbers of students enrolled last year, but also record numbers of them enrolled in "090" classes - essentially, remedial classes for those who could not get the minimum ACT score for English or Math to take the "101" level course.

    While there are, of course, a number of students who start in one or two of these courses and go on to success, they have a MUCH higher drop-out rate than students who get the minimum ACT.

    Obviously, investing inthese students is, statistically, a losing investment. Why must I pay for some punk kid to party for a year and flunk all of his courses? By the way, the system has NO method in place to stop kids from taking classes because they are doing poorly. They may not play varsity athletics, but as long as the money comes in (tax money, in most cases!) then they can continue to waste their time and mine (as their instructor).

    If we are to provide this education at the public expense, there must be a system of standards and enforcement. This will NEVER happen, because it is tantamount to the government telling people that their children aren't "good enough", which, despite its possibly truthfulness, will not be tolerated.

    That leads me to believe that a free-market would work better with this portion of the problem with education. If I can't pay for school on my own, those who would provide me with scholarships would typically have performance measures attached that must be followed - just like they do currently. Shazam! Problem solved.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 3/02/2005 11:43:00 AM  

  • David,
    I missed this earlier:

    You should check out John's homepage, The Catholic Packer Fan, which is in my blogroll. He definitely does not have the kind of views you mention. He has a heart for people and his desire for morals in the classroom is likely a function of recognition that the amoral instruction currently being dispensed in public education is a failure. I'd bet my right arm he teaches his family morals - and they are the right ones.

    What may surprise you is that...I may have some of those views. I think that the general human default behavior is to be 1)Selfish and 2)Lazy. Social science, history, and the Bible echo this.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 3/02/2005 11:44:00 AM  

  • Hammer,

    I checked out the CPF Blog. So much interesting stuff out there isn't there?
    I certainly agree that the capacity for selfishness and laziness is there...to what degree and how much it is balanced by altruism and industriousness may depend on your half full/empty glass philosophy. What I used to fear was that certain political elements would use this selfishness and laziness, then hi-jack enough of that sense of altruism toward a misplaced concern for others to bring to power an "authority" that would enslave us--or at least get me strung up on a light post for resisting...lol. But after this last election, I don't fear it so much anymore. I am now convinced that people cannot be fooled into accepting totalitarianism ...they may go willing , but that's a different matter.
    My beef with teaching "morals" in the classroom comes down to deciding whose morals are to be taught? It seems to me that whatever morals we need could be summed up by embracing "We hold

    By Anonymous David Hunley, at 3/02/2005 11:44:00 AM  

  • "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." And if a person doesn't agree with that I don't want him teaching morals to my children...and if he does (even if he wants to leave out the "Creator" part), what more need he do?
    Forgive me for being even less coherent than usual...but it is a simple concept that I am still unable to explain simply. We are teaching "morals" in our classroom--morals that don't distinguish between tolerance and acceptance; that say we have no power with our choices; that we aren't responsible for our actions; that others should pay for our bad decisions. In effect, they are morals that try to strip us of our freewill. Of course it won't work...that will have to be surrendered willingly, but what I'm trying to do is resist the laws that will force us and our children to surrender their lives before doing so.

    By Anonymous David Hunley, at 3/02/2005 11:45:00 AM  

  • You can teach morals. The secret is to teach those morals basically everyone agrees with, which happens to be a fairly large list. Many of the differences between liberals and conservatives are the order we put those morals, not the list itself? We all believe in honesty, sharing, personal responsibility, justice, the Golden Rule, tolerance, freedom, and so on. Which morals trump the others in specific situations is constantly argued as are some very hot button issues, but the base set of morals really are not in debate. They should be taught.

    By Anonymous Mark, at 3/02/2005 11:45:00 AM  

  • Mark,

    Oh the wine we could drink whiling away the hours talking about why we even believe in those basic "truths" to begin with...and I would love to do it. Perhaps one day we can.

    By Anonymous David Hunley, at 3/02/2005 11:46:00 AM  

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