I’ve often found that the polarizing point of disagreement between the left and the right is each political ideology’s separate understandings of human rights. As someone who (if it wasn’t obvious yet) identifies strongly with the far-left end of the political spectrum, I envision data security, abortion, healthcare and education all as human rights. Those on the other end of the spectrum’s ratiocination do not view these issues as fundamental human rights, and that is perhaps their greatest intellectual failing; after all, how am I to debate an individual who disagrees on the inherent nature of the topic at hand?
But enough of my musings that agonize over the seemingly pointless destinations of debates. Education is a human right. When I see commercials that, ostensibly, advertise for an increased SAT score or a guaranteed A through purchasing a prep book, I am disgusted. I am disgusted because, as someone who measures their worth heavily based on the grades she receives, I am extremely susceptible to such advertisements. I am disgusted because those commercials reveal how education is tossed around as a capitalist competition in this country, when it should be a right given to every American citizen.
I really don’t understand how we, as a society, are comfortable with the idea that students have to drop 15k-100k each year on a college education. I really can’t comprehend the intrinsic complacency that is content with the idea of students taking out loans to pay for an education, one that’ll haunt them with interest for decades. In 2017 alone, the total amount of student loan debt was estimated to be almost $1.5 trillion (f*ck the national debt, I’m worried about the student loan debt). I really, truly cannot wrap my head around the idea that, in order to receive an education, you need to hand over money. Truly, the idea that education is a good (or service) in capitalism, is a fundamentally skewed understanding that is rooted in the successful monetizing of the education system into a capitalist monopoly.
In today’s world, where a college education is an important requirement for entering the workforce, technical skills are required and having a degree is looked upon favorably, education shouldn’t be so financially demanding. It’s a radical idea, especially in the capitalism-infested United States, but education (up until college) should be completely free (paid for by the government), for a number of reasons.
1. Equity, baby!
When entering the workforce, most employees are more likely to hire you if you have attained a degree, and look down on a simple high school diploma. But with the exorbitant cost of college, many individuals choose to abandon college entirely, or put it off when they are more financially-able. By allowing education to be free, and leaving college as an open option for everyone, all Americans would have the opportunity to benefit from the advantages of having a college degree. Yes, an effect of this model could make the workforce more competitive, but that leads to our next reason.
2. An Educated Nation
Do I really need to emphasize the advantages of having a smarter populace? College is a period of important growth for some (and most) individuals, intellectually and emotionally. They are the “thinking tanks” of America, where classes foster intellectual debate with opposing viewpoints, allowing students to postulate, and a student presumably becomes an expert in their field. College is an underestimated experience, but the education it provides is vital, and an individual is one step closer to reaching their potential.
3. “Bad economy” who? I don’t know her.
Say you weren’t stuck in the mud of debt or needlessly glued into a low-wage job; you could pursue your talents with the freedom that education provides, leading to a more prosperous you. And prosperous people could yield to an even prosperer nation. After all, studies have shown that graduating with high amounts of student loan debt reduces a person's chances of owning a home, getting married, having children, and accumulating wealth (1). And what does a decreased chance of accumulating wealth mean? A sadder economy, because people who accumulate wealth are more likely to spend wealth, investing in the economy. Optimistically, the opportunities education provides (and the glorious chance of graduating debt-free), could do wonders to the economy.
4. The American Dream
Knowledge is power, and education is a weapon. Being educated will never do you a disservice. The American Dream is all about climbing up ladders, and guess what? Climbing ladders is hard when you’re scraping to pay your college tuition and textbook fees. By the simple concept of a degree, and the lack of affordability that colleges have right now, we are deliberately creating a system where social mobility becomes stagnant, education divides become wider, and an inequality in knowledge exists. By creating education into an opportunity that is not just open to the rich, those who have attained scholarships, or those who can afford it, social mobility is allowed to gloriously gear in.
There are so many more reasons for why education, a human right, should be an open and free opportunity for all. But truthfully speaking, while I may espouse the benefits of the free education plan, I highly doubt education will ever become free in America, based on how concrete the protectionism of capitalism is in the nation. But to dream is never a crime. So here’s to those who believe that education is a human right, and dream of it being free one day. À votre santé, dreamers—don’t let my pessimism stop you.