In all the hassles and kerfuffles involving the issue of education, it seems to me that one critical aspect of the problem has been totally overlooked, and that is the difference between the “right” to an opportunity as opposed to an outright right. All “rights” come with conditions, whether those are legal or physical or mental, or financial, or some combination thereof. One has to be a certain age to vote. One cannot exercise his or her second amendment rights under certain conditions… or if one has exercised those rights unwisely and ends up in jail.
Likewise, the “right” to an education is really the right to have the opportunity to gain that education. Not all individuals have the ability to become engineers, lawyers, physicists, or other professionals. Some individuals do not have the intellectual ability or the temperament to persevere through college and or graduate school. Saying that anyone has the unequivocal “right” to any particular kind of advanced education is either wistful dreaming or delusion. Saying that they should have the right to pursue education as far as their abilities may permit is far more accurate, although that still doesn’t address who will fund those studies and by what means. Nor does it address, as I’ve noted earlier, whether that education will lead to a job in that field.
The reason why the distinction between the right to an opportunity for education and the right to the education itself is vitally important is that if legislators insist on an unqualified right to a specific course of study that course of study will be dumbed down (while grades are inflated) in all but the most elite institutions, which is what has already occurred in U.S. public education, and which is why many parents mortgage their futures and everything else to pay to live in elite school districts and to send their children to the best colleges possible [or the best ones that they can afford].
Once upon a time, the vast majority of students who graduated from high school could write coherent sentences and understandable paragraphs and had a solid basis in fundamental mathematics, history, and science. Today, almost two thirds of all U.S. high school students have never written a paper exceeding five pages, and three quarters of them cannot write anywhere close to proficiently. Sixty percent cannot read with enough comprehension to effectively handle college level work, yet surveys show that over seventy percent of parents believe that public high schools are adequately preparing their children for college.
Those statistics are also another reason why more and more employers are requiring at least two years of college, not because the students need the college courses, but because only students who can complete two years of college are likely to have the basic reading, writing, and mathematics skills for most jobs.
So… if you want to finish destroying secondary and undergraduate education in the United States, by all means insist on every student’s “right” to higher education.