Education is a right. It is the twenty-sixth of the thirty fundamental human rights that are written in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The article states that every person should have the option of free primary school. Children should be taught what their parents choose, as well as social skills like how to interact with fellow students.
Also written in the same Declaration is the thirtieth fundamental human right. It is the last one written, but the most important. No-one can take any of your human rights away. The government, the parents, the teachers- all of them do not have the right to steal any education away. Yet, in some countries, girls cannot go to school. The poor can’t go to school. People of non-native ethnicities can’t go to school. People of a certain skin tone can’t go to school. Their governments have taken that right away. Are they any less human than I am – than you are? No. They are just as human, with emotions just as raw, with dreams just as wistful, with wishes that yearn to be heard. Their human rights are being violated and this makes education less of a right – and more of a privilege.
Education as a privilege is easier to validate. A privilege is something, may it be a right, an advantage, or protection, that is offered solely to a limited group of people, and is not offered to every person. Education, in this century and the last and all those prior, has been offered to only a small portion of the world. Only children in first world countries are guaranteed education- disregarding quality- at least to the primary school level. In countries in East Asia, Polynesia, the Middle East, Africa, South America, South, and Southeast Asia, children do not have the privilege of being able to attend an elementary school like children in the United States or Finland or France. These children, the majority of children in the world, spend their days laboring with their parents to earn money for food, or fleeing for their lives, or playing in the streets because their parents are too busy and too tired to care for them. Perhaps these girls are taking care of baby sisters and baby brothers rather than going to school.
They are just as human as me and you, the privileged ones that are lucky enough to attend good schools and receive a solid education. They should have the same rights as we do, yet these rights become privileges. These rights are ignored by countries that are supposed to protect their citizens’ rights; basic rights, promised to all seven and a half billion people, is disregarded and dismissed. The “inferior people,” the women, and certain ethnicities are ignored. This right, promised to every, single, last one of them, is stolen. It is promised but forgotten, the unwarranted dismissal of entire peoples’ rights.
What is the purpose of these rights in the first place? They are said to be inextricable from any human, something that is intrinsically human, yet they can be ignored and taken away just like the snap of a finger. A human’s rights are so easily violated that why is there even the promise of them in the first place? The rights are promises, from one human to another, yet these promises are broken like they are nothing more than an ant to be squashed. And nothing is done for these broken promises, broken like the wings of a butterfly.
However, consider the American school system. In the United States, it is a right to attend primary or elementary school. Nonetheless, the quality of the schools is dismal in the majority of neighborhoods. There are over a hundred “drop-out factories” which are defined as schools in which over forty percent of the students drop out of high school before graduation. In the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” one of the high schools featured starts off with twelve hundred freshmen. By sophomore year, there are only three to four hundred students left.
What is the point of these schools? They produce drop-outs, no people of any talent because these schools are not places where the students grow. Even in America, one of the most developed countries, education is not a right. It is a privilege to grow up and go to school in Southern California’s richest cities: Irvine, Huntington Beach, Newport. It is a privilege to grow up in Washington D.C.’s Dupont Circle and Foxhall, to go to the private schools in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. To grow up on Billionaire’s Row, the area with some of the most expensive flats in the entire world, while other less fortunate people have this right dismissed.
How horrible would it be to grow up in the deepest parts of the ghetto in Chicago, where seventy-five percent of students drop out of school? How horrible would it be to grow up, poor, in Los Angeles?
Education by definition is a right. But in practice, it is a privilege. Unequal, prejudiced, biased. Bigotted, racist, sexist. Education, in our world’s sad truth, is solely a privilege.