Contemplation: Is an Education a Basic Human Right?

I am not really sure how I thought about this the other day but somehow I got it into my mind about how much I value being relatively well-educated.  Thinking about it made me wonder if education is something that should be a basic human right.  So I thought I thought I might as well write about it.

I guess, when contemplating something like the concept of human rights, we have to take into consideration a number of important factors.  Obviously there will be debates about what does or does not constitute as a basic human right.  There may also be questions about whether basic human rights even exist in the first place.  I cannot claim to have a strong personal opinion on the matter.  I am not somebody who believes in universal absolutes, however I do tend adhere to a number of ideas that I think demonstrate a largely human consensus of benefit.  As such, my ideas of human rights, would be those things that most people will say “yes, it is good if all people are able to actualized these broad ideals.”

In the case of education, I think it is reasonable to think that people are, as a whole, much better off being well-educated.  Of course, the challenge is determining what constitutes a good education.  Personally, I consider a good education to be that which provides an individual with tools that allows him/her to ask intelligent questions, pursue logical conclusions, and generally apply critical thinking techniques in day-to-day interactions.  Books smarts can be very beneficial but I think that at times they take a second seat to the ability for an individual to successfully reason out solutions to problems and make choices based on logical observation of benefits and consequences.

When I criticize education systems here in the USA it is more often because I feel like there is an unbalanced emphasis of “knowing it this way” as opposed to teaching people to come to their own conclusions to quality thinking.  Sure there are lots of reasons why it is valuable to have an understanding of specifics of math, science, history, etc. but often times I think that specific facts are not quite as paramount as say, being able to determine if somebody is making a logical argument.  Specific facts can be useful in strengthening our own ability at logical discourse or accomplishing specific tasks, but the broadly speaking ability to think critically allows us to process and interact with a much broader field of situations.

Assuming that education is a basic human right I think that there is a lot in this world, and in this country as well, that is impeding to the actualization.  I suspect that part of the problem is that education is potentially threatening to power regimes that which to maintain authority and control.  This is not to suggest that the distribution of power in leadership in an authority is all corrupt (while much of it very well may be), however, the greater an education of a population there is, the more likely there is that there will be people who questions matters of applied authority.  A well educated person will likely ask questions about why decisions are made in certain ways. They may not be questioning from the perspective of disagreement or intent to disrupt, but solely on the grounds that questions deserve to be asked and traditions should be scrutinized.

An education of the grand human population is never a stationary thing.  Throughout history human kind has been advancing in educated ways, challenging authorities, assumptions, and practices that have proven over time to less valuable.  It would be wonderful if I could claim to be living in a golden age of the educated masses, where everyone is provided an equal opportunity to learn about their world and amass their own knowledge.  However I do not think this is true.  I think that we are still far off from that ideal and part of the reason is because there are many individuals or groups of individuals who do not want to accept education as a basic human right.

I am curious as to what other people think about education as a basic human right.  Leave me a comment and let me know.

~ by Nathaniel on November 10, 2011.

2 Responses to “Contemplation: Is an Education a Basic Human Right?”

  1. I think an important distinction is about the actual definition of the term ‘right’. In a couple of my classes in political science, we’ve had involved discussions about the nature of rights. Fundamentally, rights come down to ‘X activity/opportunity that I am ENTITLED to simply by the fact that I am alive’. Entitlement is emphasized for me. Rights can be dangerous because you don’t have to earn them. In the case of education, seeing at as a ‘right’ can lead to situations like this:

    “I have a right to be educated, which means I don’t need to take responsibility for helping myself get educated. Hmm, I don’t seem to be learning as much as Joe over there who works 5 times harder than I do. Education system, you’re failing me!”

    I believe that rights have to be balanced with responsibilities in order to be effective. Do I think human beings have the right to a good education? Absolutely. Is it necessary that you actually reach out your hand and take advantage of that yourself by being responsible to work and attempt to learn on your own? Also absolutely. A right means nothing if it is not actively used.

    • This is a really good point and distinction and I agree with you completely. I suppose that the better way of classifying the rights to education would be that people deserve the right to pursue a quality education and to furthermore apply the benefits that they recieve through having been educated.

      Thanks for the comment, I think it is definitely something that I was considering yet failed to include in the initial post.

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