What exactly is the goal of education, or at least, high school education? While one might argue that the goal of high school education is education, in and of itself, I feel as though that’s a little bit too idealistic of an end. Rather, high school education is supposed to prepare you for life as an adult; prepare you to get a job, prepare you to write a resume and prepare you for life. Perhaps high school did that before; you could get a job as a waiter or a bartender, working a factory position that could support yourself and a soon-to-be-had family.
Alas, this is no longer the case. The minimum wage has failed to grow alongside inflation and housing costs, meaning what was once sufficient is no longer so. As populations grow and tertiary sectors expand more and more, jobs that can be found right out of high school are dwindling. Worse yet, the looming specter of automation looms above the heads of workers everywhere, threatening to take from them their jobs and their livelihoods. It is for these reasons and others that I believe that post-secondary education should be a right, not a privilege.
Let’s talk automation. In the next 15 years, up to 40% of all extant jobs are going to be replaced by automation. Now, this does not necessarily just affect jobs right out of high school. It does, however, disproportionately affect them, and this is a fact that is reflected throughout society and history. The milkman has been supplanted by refrigerators. Increasingly, paper deliverers are dwindling as online sources of news establish dominance. In many fast food restaurants, cashiers are slowly falling out in favor of kiosks. And many assembly line jobs that once existed are now replaced by machines that automatically assemble cars without fatigue or injury. I could go on, but the point is, automation is rapidly replacing extant employment options for students fresh out of high school or even in trades. Without these jobs, working out of high school becomes much less appealing.
One might argue that someone has to create the machines required for automation. However, the majority of these jobs will be occupied by people with post-secondary educations with the higher education likely necessary to plan and assemble such contraptions. Moreover, even for jobs that do emerge to create these contraptions, those are likely to be temporary and easily replaced.
On the unlikely chance that such jobs are not replaced, there lies a further issue. Most jobs that come straight out of high school do not pay adequately to function as reliable sources of full-time income. There was definitely a time where they did. That time is, unfortunately, not now. Housing, which makes up a large bulk of living expenses, has gone up by around 60% between 2002 and 2018, which would not normally be problematic. However, given the fact that the minimum wage has not kept up and has only gone up by around 27% in the same, one’s ability to provide for not only their family, but oneself on an out of high school job seems rather unrealistic.
Even if one considers the unlikely possibility of acquiring a job that allows them to make adequate money to live, post-secondary education should nonetheless be considered a right, not a privilege. This is because post-secondary education as a right would help close the gap between the haves and the have-nots. In the present day and age, post-secondary programs are changing in two ways. One, programs are becoming more expensive across the board. And two, programs are becoming more and more competitive, meaning incremental advantages like tutors and lessons matter all the more. This puts the rich at a disproportionate advantage. While normally, this would be an accepted fact of a capitalist society, it is not that simple in this situation. This is because of the fact that education is a primary source of incremental advantages that disproportionately affects the place you end up in at adulthood. Hence, a lack of education widens the gap between socioeconomic classes to an irreconcilable degree that in my opinion, must be addressed.
It would be idealistic and unrealistic to expect all individuals to be equal. However, education is an area where we should strive for equality, as it is not only a product of one’s effort but a starting point for one’s future. Moreover, post-secondary education is increasingly becoming a necessity to being able to live adequately in a world dominated by automation and rising living costs. For these reasons, post-secondary education should be a right, not a privilege.