Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Is Post-Secondary Education a Right?

The entire "insert-social-program-here IS A RIGHT" are really starting to get on my nerves. Our entire society has gone "right" crazy and no one is talking about anyone's responsibilities.

This summer, I plan to take Education Policy and hope to have some interesting and productive discussions about problems and solutions to the problems currently facing our education system. Afro-centric schools to French Immersion programs have be my interests lately. Aside from these two issues, I am reminded about my entitlement- riddled-peers who insist on protesting tuition rates every February and rant and rave about education being a right. I'm not sure what Emile Durkheim would have to say about it (not that most students protesting tuition would have heard of this sociology theorist). Nevertheless, Carson Jerema has an excellent article called, "What right to an education?"

Free education advocates might point to state subsidization for primary and secondary school. The state is obligated, most would agree, to not only provide an education for children but to compel parents to send their children to school. It is not in the interests of the rights of the child per se, but in the interests of the adult he/she will become. In order for adults to exercise their autonomy and make appropriate choices, it is important that they be endowed with a minimal level of education so that they may function in a modern economy and participate in a liberal democracy.

But this cannot be true of higher education, because not only can we not compel adults to go, but that the function of lower levels of education is more basic, than the often career oriented aspects of post-secondary education. If one could credibly argue, in a country where upwards of 40 per cent of the 18-24 cohort goes to university, that students are not being suitably prepared to function in society the focus should be on primary and secondary education. To argue that higher education is an entitlement is only marginally different than arguing if I want to be a doctor than I have the right to be.

Do go and read the rest.

Also take a look at interesting commentary from Yoni Goldstein's "Canada's biggest mistake: Funding higher education for all and sending marginal specimens to university":

Yet most Canadians refuse to accept this possibility because our system of publicly funding universities and colleges has ingrained in us the message that going to college is a right, not a privilege and responsibility. So we pretty much all go. And why not? It’s cheap (yes, even at $5,000 a year), it’s fun and there are virtually no expectations placed on you — just do what you please, study (or don’t) what you want and we’ll see you in four years. Maybe you’ll have gained a skill, maybe not, but either way at least you’ll have “experienced” university.

This is nonsense; taxpayers should not be forced to pay for marginal specimens to have a four-year vacation from reality. Those who truly benefit from university — the ones who use what they learn to become businessmen, teachers or continue studies into law and medical school or academia — are being held back by a system that is designed to accommodate lower-calibre students.

And the kids who don’t belong in university are losing out, too. Instead of languishing in a four-year program, struggling for a B-minus average, they could be learning a trade in half the time that would lead to a solid, and often quite lucrative, career. (Have you noticed how trade schools have resorted to basically begging for students on TV and radio ads?)

Want to know why there’s no Canadian equivalent to Harvard or Yale or Oxford (and forget it UofT grads, you’re not on the level)? It’s because we don’t have the guts to be exclusive, to pick only the best and forget about the rest. And so the smartest Canadians are forced to travel abroad to get the best possible education. Oftentimes, they never return.

Having kept in touch with many of my colleagues who have recently completed a university degree, I've learned that their fluffy BA in film studies or history has gotten them a job at Chapters or as a personal assistant. Why do I need to complete a Master's degree to do what I want as a career? Supply and Demand. Too many people with undergraduate degrees and credentialism has now made an undergraduate degree the starting point instead of the ending point.

But is post-secondary education a right? I would have to agree with Yoni and Carson that the answer is no.


Anonymous Dave Hodson said...

Many of these 'students of entitlement' don't realize where the funding for their education comes from, because most have never had to pay much in the way of taxes themselves. It's as if there's some magical money fairy that can provide schools with all they need.

To say you have a 'right' to something, essentially means that somebody else has an 'obligation' to give you something. These moochers should join the real world and learn that noboby owes them anything, and that we all need to pay for what we want.

I pay enough damn taxes now without having to pay for some more losers to get a free ride.

Wed Apr 16, 06:02:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jarrett said...

"I've learned that their fluffy BA in film studies or history has gotten them a job at Chapters or as a personal assistant."

*hands to heart* Cruel! You're too cruel!

Haha. Seriously, I agree in substance with much of what you say here. I also thought you'd enjoy the convo I had last Friday with a protestor.

Her: "Education should be free!"
Me: "Is that so?"
Her: "Yes, absolutely!"
Me: "On what are you basing this?"
Her: "It's a right."
Me: "Really?! Since when?"
Her: "It's always been a right!"
Me: "Umm... actually, NO."
Her: "Even Adam Smith said it should be free!"
Me: "Well I'll be goddamned! Maybe he did! Was this in The Wealth of Nations?"
Her: "..."
Me: "Was this in his chapter on the discourse on silver?"
Her: "... I don't know ..."
Me: "See, what Smith actually said was..."

Wed Apr 16, 11:48:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, if it keeps that b- student out of jail, maybe we should be paying - its cheaper to fund education than jail time! Hows that for conservative politics - it is conservative! just not how we think anymore.

Your good friend Peter

Thu Apr 24, 02:56:00 PM EDT  

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