Engaged-Learning: Linking Education to Everyone

What do you think? Should education be a right or a privilege?

To be fair, I’m mostly talking about education beyond high-school or even college. But with rising costs of tuition, the inconvenience of attending, or the enormous time pursuing,  it offers us this kind of choice of going back-to-school or continuing as already predetermined.

In this way, education is a privilege afforded by those who either have the money (or worse, student loans), the time (balancing work, school, and life responsibilities), or convenience (or at least managing it).

But what if education was a right?

Where institutions of higher learning would provide free and low-cost continuing education; where employers would give money and sabbatical time for renewing and gaining skills; where society would embrace lifelong learning and education, as learning for-its-own-sake, to become more informed and enlightened citizens of communities.

This is what engaged-learning could be—and should be: Linking education for everyone at all stages of life and learning.

So, returning to the question: Should education be a right or a privilege? Or better, should we never have to answer this question because someday we will experience no difference.


3 responses to “Engaged-Learning: Linking Education to Everyone

  1. Carrie Hunter

    I am uncomfortable with the phrase “should be?” Should nations fight nations for religious/cultural beliefs or resources? Should parents spank their kids? Should children be born in hunger? Should American Idol change its format? Value statements are all well and good, and some of them are less controversial than others, and some involve more attainable and desirable goals than others. In this particular case, I think the interesting question is more:

    What aspects and forms of education can feasibly be supported as a public good? And how?

    You see, what “should be” is not always a “can be” and so sometimes difficult decisions have to be made. One might look historically for the causes of the situation we find ourselves in today.
    In the 70’s UNESCO came out with their first and powerful statements and international policy documents promoting Lifelong Learning (LLL) for all. In those days, “education” broadly defined, was seen as a right……..and LLL had humanitarian objectives: emancipation, democracy, self-fulfillment etc. The global economic crises of the 80’s and 90’s led to distrust of governments, a focus on economic rationality and accountability, neo-liberal foci on the indivdual, Thatcherism etc. This is when the discourse shifted from “the learning society” of broad and humanitarian ideals to a more narrow discourse of “the knowledge based economy” focused on how education can supply a more skilled labour force.
    You see, by asking the question: “right or privilege?” you, to a degree, reproduce and accept the neo-liberal focus on the individual. Education and the social capital of it, are seen as a commodity that are owned by an individual for individual benefit. You are promoting one way of looking at education that is actually part of the problem: You are promoting the notion of education as a PRIVATE good. And since the 80’s and 90’s we seem to be increasingly losing the notion that education is also a PUBLIC good. And that good stretches beyond the economic. Education in all its forms can advance health, happiness, culture, democracy, political freedom, law and order, tolerance etc. In these ways education is a public good.
    As I said, I am concerned with the “should be.” So, I don’t even want to say “we should see Education as a public good.” I’d rather say that it is, undeniably, at least partially, a public good. The important and actionable question that comes from that statement is now: What CAN be done about that? We need practical and pragmatic solutions, not just theoretical labels of “should” and “should not.” We have to accept that the public purse is NOT limitless and that the cost of everything comes at a cost to something else. We can also accept that there may be some low cost solutions, and some creativity might encourage their identification. However, we will still be faced with making decisions about what aspects and forms of education we are going to treat as public goods, and how we will fund and promote those aspects of education as a public good. I am also interested in how we can re-awaken the general appreciation of the public good that is in education that seems to have been over-shadowed by a focus on the economic benefit it can bring to individuals and their employers.

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