A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Our Children's Future Should Not Be Up For Auction

Sometimes articles written by others express such a helpful idea I am tempted to post a link and just say, "read this."  Education Funding: Where Two Fundamental American Ideals Completely Conflict by Daniel Fincke is one such article.   Fincke writes about the ideal of social mobility and the ideal of giving our children a better life and the conflict which arises between these two ideals.  I suggest reading the entire article but here is a sample:

When it comes to education funding when you say, “I work hard, I should be able to pass on advantages to my kids that other kids don’t have” you’re basically saying “my kids are entitled to advantages that they did not earn themselves and other kids are entitled to disadvantages that they did not earn themselves”. You’re saying that your kids deserve more fundamental economic opportunity because of what you do rather than what they do and other kids deserve less because of what their parents do rather than what they do. You are arguing for a de facto system of inherited wealth and advantage that undermine the meritocratic principles that this is supposed to be a country where talent and hard work are determinative of outcomes ....

We want to keep our children safe.  We want to ensure a good life for them.  It is good and right to want good for our children.  But when we give advantages to our children at the expense of others we only give them a better life at a surface level.  On a deeper level, the only way our children will be safe is if all children are safe.  The only way to maximize the odds of a good life for our children is if we move as close as possible toward all children having opportunity at a good life.  This means upholding human rights, such as education, for all people.

I am fortunate to live in a rural area where there is only one choice for elementary and secondary education.  Having such limited options may not sound like an advantage but this guarantees community resources are dedicated to educating all of the community's children.  I am doubly fortunate this one option is a pretty great option with caring, hardworking, wonderful teachers.  Yet even for children in our school district the equality of opportunity runs out when it comes to college.  Have you seen college tuition lately?  Such high tuition ensures unequal access to advanced education.

During the Occupy WallStreet movement I remember some scoffing at complaints about college tuition.  The implication being these were a bunch of spoiled college students whining about student loans when there are much larger economic and social issues about which to be concerned.  But the right to equal educational opportunity is fundamental to social and economic justice.  Education allows for broader occupational opportunities which determine income.  Education influences so many aspects of life for the individual and for the individual's contributions to society as a whole.   Education is crucial on so many levels .

It is understandable to want great opportunities for our children.  However, when purchasing those opportunities reinforces a status quo which turns human rights into privileges then we place our children on rocky ground.  When rights become privileges, the wealthy and powerful will continue to raise the cost until no amount of working or planning will enable the rest of us to purchase them for our children.  All children need access to quality education.  Otherwise our children's future is up for auction to the highest bidder and we will eventually find ourselves unable to pay.

This is the case with education as well as other human rights.  We need to broaden our vision so we can realize the only way to ensure a positive future for our children is to ensure a positive future for all children.   

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