Friday, October 13, 2006

News to Me

I'm blogging from campus this morning -- something I've never done before, but being away from the house allows me the quiet and detatchment to think a little more clearly.

I was having my morning coffee down in the cafeteria a while ago. The table at which I sat was across the aisle from our Student Government kiosk (mostly because it's ALSO right next to the door -- quick in, quick out), where they're holding a voter registration drive. That in and of itself is an admirable activity. But what caught my eye and troubled me was one of the posters they have printed up and plastered al around, the one that says, "Education! It's a Right!"

Oh, really? Refresh my memory -- which part of the constitution states that? Where is that listed in the Declaration as a "Certain inalienable right"? Education isn't a right, it's a privilege. It's not yours by birthright, it has to be earned.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm a firm believer in the importance of education. It's one of the few causes to which I'll give my money. Heck, I'm even accepting assistance to get an education myself (though, to be fair, that assistance is coming mostly from charitable donations and from unemployment funds into which I've paid my share for the last 20 years).

But I reject the assertion that it's a right to which everyone is entitled, no questions asked, and I reject that the bill for providing that "right" is necessarily to be footed by the taxpaying public. It's certainly everyone's right to pursue an education, as that falls under the pursuit of happiness and definitely helps enable one to secure ones liberty. But the right to pursue does not necessarily convey the right to being aided in that pursuit. In fact, I'm beginning to see that as one of the basic differences between a right and a privilege -- a right can be defined as something that an individual must be free to do or not do, at their will, without hindrance or coercion from society or government or other individuals. A privilege is something that an individual is allowed to do or assisted in doing or shielded from by society, the government or other individuals, contingent upon the individual meeting certain criteria and/or taking certain reciprocal actions.

An education falls into that category. Does everyone have a right to a Harvard education? No -- that would require a certain level of academic performance, as well as financial resources. Does everyone deserve a PHD in quantum physics? No -- the level of education one attains is contingent upon both one's innate intelligence as well as ones willingness to make the required effort. Even among high school graduates, the quality of education they received is to a argue extent dependent on how much attention they paid, and how muh work they did. Garbage In, Garbage Out.

That's the part of the education priviledge bestowed upon students by educators. In the case of public education, we must also be aware of the fact that the priviledge is also besatowed by the taxpayers who fund education. They expect, or at least SHOULD expect, certain conditions be met in return for the funding they provide -- including accountability on the part of both students and educators for the quality and content of the education. They're footing the bill, they should get to see the statement.

In conclusion, and to reiterate, no, my dear ASLCC, education is NOT a right. It's a priviledge. Granted, it's a priviledge which in the long run is prudent to extend, but a priviledge nonetheless. So while I appreciate your efforts to motivate young people to ote, I'm not so thrilled about the way you're encouraging them to think about my wallet. I'm a student, but I'm also a taxpayer. And to answer the question of the young lady with the clipboard, yes, I'm registered to vote.