Education Is a Right!
Discussion of the MLPC Platform
Education is a right. This is pretty much accepted by everyone in today’s world but what does it mean? How is this right defined and how can it be enforced? One thing is for sure — defining and enforcing this right are a necessity. Without providing the coming generations with an education commensurate with the level required by societies and the world today, how can we possibly bring into being the kind of future we want?
But who decides what is needed by societies today? Who decides the content and funding of education? What forms of social, political and other culture are the youth imbued with through the education system? What about settling scores with the old conscience of society such as the cruel discrimination in the case of Indigenous children and families and the systemic racism they face? Or the discriminatory ways in which children from immigrant families and other backgrounds are treated or how the Canadian economy exploits international students as cash cows — to the tune of $19 billion in the case of “visa students”? How does the education system assess and deal with the problems of adolescence and growing up and their many related matters?
Do these issues and how they are dealt with by governments at all levels support the educators, schools, communities, and most importantly the youth or are they used to divide us? Do they treat the youth as human beings with rights or just as categories of “things” to be targeted for reward or punishment and the consumption of “things” according to values nobody has discussed and decided for themselves?
An education system is financed to educate and train youth according to the needs of an economy. When that economy is in the hands of a tiny financial oligarchy, which is self-serving to the extreme, the direction of the economy and the education system is set according to the very narrow private aims of the oligarchs in control. How do we as educators and others concerned with education and the youth deal with this reality?
In the field of education, what governments see fit to provide is controlled by the narrow private aims of those who own and control the economy, and in particular the companies that produce and sell everything in the education market. This includes the necessary infrastructure, buildings, computers, furnishings, textbooks and equipment of all kinds. But the tentacles of these private interests reach well beyond this to what kind of workers they want produced for their labour market. The control of these powerful private interests extends to the curriculum, programming, demands for research and importantly the aim of the education system itself.
The aim of those who direct the education system from the top is to serve the private interests of those in control of the economy, the financial oligarchy. The aim coming from the top means that the educators and youth are put under tremendous pressure to obey and fit into this anti-social atmosphere of serving narrow private interests and their market including their labour market. They are forced to “fend for themselves” and “do whatever it takes” to secure a niche for themselves in the education system and labour market the financial oligarchs control.
However, try as they might, these narrow private interests do not and cannot control the people. Try as they might, they cannot force the educators and support workers, parents and students to agree with them and willingly succumb. This is their problem and society’s great asset. While getting an education is a source of constant worry for the younger generations because of the cost and the dog-eat-dog, everyone-fend-for-themselves culture, many youth are defying this dictate in order to build a bright future for themselves. While the degeneration of the system of education is increasingly stressful for teachers, education workers, principals and parents; they are courageously and with tremendous dedication and determination finding ways and means to say No! to the cutbacks, privatization, dictate and imposition of unacceptable aims and conditions. Even administrators, who are hired and pressured by those who have their fingers in the education pie to run schools, colleges and universities like private businesses whose main aim is to make money for all and sundry are speaking out despite threats of job loss and other forms of reprisal.
This resistance, this refusal to give in, this spirit of saying No! when necessary, makes the unity in action among educators, support staff, students and parents life-giving and important. It makes the demands and claims of those who work and live in the field of education — educators, students, parents and others — life-giving and important.
The educators are professionals who have taken up a duty to society, to their students and to themselves. When they speak about their conditions of life and work and the problems in the field of education as a result of cutbacks and lack of funding or the self-seeking demands of the powerful private interests, their voices are worth more than gold. We should listen to them and support them when they fight to affirm their rights and speak in their own name.
We need a society that provides rights with a guarantee including the right to education because we need enlightened teachers, education workers, schools, colleges and universities to help raise our children and open a path forward for the progress of society.
(Photos: RU, C. Glover)