Sunday, September 2, 2007

Is Education a basic human right? Should it be mandatory?

This is an interesting set of questions to think about. It becomes one of those where there become so many layers and exceptions to the rule that it makes it difficult come up with a clear answer. Andreas' blog posting points the contrast between systems that implement education for nefarious purposes and teachers that thrive and make a difference in children's lives.

I believe that I agree that education is a basic human right. Whether it should be mandatory to a certain level, well, that depends. Education means so many different things to different people. TomaĆĄevski's articles really made me stop and think about how different our situation here in the US is compared to other countries. We're debating here about NCLB, charter schools vs traditional public schools, and vouchers for helping students attend private schools, but rarely if ever do I hear an argument that schooling should go away all together. That is, culturally here in the US (although there are portions of the country that do not value education) it is generally a given that education will make us better, and we simply argue about the manner in which to implement it. I really hadn't given much thought before to how to handle young boys that herd sheep in the mountains far away from any sign of civilization. Who am I to say what education, if any, will help that boy? Or will it hurt him? Will he be outcast in his society because a Westerner came in and told him that he needs a Western education? Is his education, being out in nature, surviving on the land, communicating with his animals, learning to read the sky and the water, worth any more or less than the PhD I'm working on?

In the case of the girls who become worth less when they get married at an older age because they put off marriage to go to school, a burden is placed on the parents for trying to educate their children, so who should blame them for conforming to their society's reward structure? Certainly many great people have made sacrifices in spite of great pressure around them and have gone on to make a difference in the world. But is a person unsuccessful because they didn't change the world or because they conformed to society's expectations?

Of course, education is one of those things where you don't know what you're missing until you become educated, then once you have become educated, it's somewhat too late to decide that you'd rather not be educated, a paradox in line with the Observer Effect. Rising literacy rates and the availability of education have led to improvements in medicine, communications, travel, efficiency in production, and a better understanding of the world around us, but does that mean that everyone has to take advantage of such? I hope that the opportunity is made available to all who wish to receive an education, but I don't believe that mandatory education is necessarily the answer in all situations. It does seem to be a difficult line to draw.

I think I've asked more questions that I've answered.

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