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Education is Not a Right

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As a college professor, and before that as a student, I have never heard a student complain about his rights being violated because a class was cancelled. Nor have I ever heard a student thank a professor for protecting her rights by assigning a heavy workload. But, if there is a proposal to raise the interest rate on college loans, cries of rights violations are heard from the halls of Congress to every university and junior college in the nation. The claim that education, a college education, is a right confuses a right with an entitlement.

Quick, define right. Most of us can provide examples of rights, but hardly anyone can define what a right is or distinguish a right from an entitlement.

A right is anything that is constituent to my being. Reasoning, communicating, moving around, these are rights. I should be able to think and say what I want so long as it does not harm another. I don’t need a government to give me the capacity of speech or thought, but I do need the government to protect me from some brute who doesn’t think I should be able to think or speak freely.

This makes formal education not a right but an entitlement. This definition puts education on par with Social Security, not the First Amendment. This means the government can stop backing student loans or increase loan interest rates without violating anyone’s rights.

By any reasonable measure, a nation of educated people will be a better nation than one that is populated by uneducated people. But this does not transform education into a right; it simply makes it a choice. If we know the costs and benefits of education then we can debate whether the benefits outweigh the costs.

To say that everyone has a right to an education because it will help them move up the socioeconomic ladder is political pandering. You know what else will help someone move up the socioeconomic ladder? Being born into a well-connected family. So is it my right to have the government find me a new mom and dad? I’ll take the Romneys or the Clintons.

But even if I were to drop the argument that education is not a right and agree with the status quo that holds it to be a right, government funding of education is not protecting that right unless it can prove students are being educated at the institutions they attend. Loaning someone money to pay tuition is not protecting a right if there is nothing in place to make sure that education is what’s going on in the classroom. To say otherwise is to say college admission, and not education, is a right.

But that is exactly what politicians who are using the promise of low student loans are doing. They are promising low student loan rates because that’s what young voters want to hear. Students don’t want to hear a politician say the government is going to step in to make sure courses will become rigorous in order to make sure the right to an education is being protected.

This is an election year and this is what politicians do in an election year. They promise goods and services to people whose vote they need. Our declining education system is a serious issue that needs to be addressed, and throwing money at it is not the answer.

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About Kyle Scott

  • STM

    Igor: “How did you guys do in Highschool?”

    Best way to answer that would be: Crap.

    “STM could do better … he spends far too much time staring out the window or piss-farting around in class and disrupting the other students.”

    But then I’m not doing that well now, either …

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Igor –

    I called you with a similar anecdote – and pointed it out to you a second time, and you didn’t touch it. See #159.

  • A good indicator of someone who suspects they don’t have a leg to stand on is when they start feeling the need to explain to everybody how they’re winning the argument.

    Usually it’s right-wingers who do this, which makes me suspect that Igor may have picked up some bad habits when he was younger.

    Igor also clearly didn’t bother to look at the link in #178 or he would have realized that it at least partly supports his assertion, so he’s beginning to look a bit silly at this point.

  • Zingzing

    Igor, your assertion is wrong and your anecdote is meaningless… Is this getting a bit psychedelic to anyone else?

  • Igor

    @177-Dr D is just a red herring. It has NOTHING to do with the issue.

    Hey D: I called your assertion with an assertion and raised you by an anecdote. You can call, raise or fold. A call would require a similar anecdote, a raise would probably require an independent study, or you could just fold, in which case I sweep in the chips.

    Your move.

    I like this game. I’ve played it on a mahogany table in a board room with a roll of hundreds in my left hand.

    Your call.

  • Clav

    Ah, Doc, yer a good bloke, despite what they all say. That was a very good link, from an interesting (and at least passingly respectable, too!) source.

  • Hmm. Took me about ten seconds to do what you’ve been refusing for a couple of days to do.

    You’re welcome.

  • Igor: again, support for my statement is not needed for the same reason the statement “Canada is bigger than the United States” does not need to be supported – it’s common knowledge.

    But any time you want to provide any support, other than personal experience, for your statement that educational performance is not an indicator of lifetime success, feel free.

  • Igor

    This IS exactly an unsupported claim, because you have given no support for it. That’s what ‘unsupported’ means.

    my claim – that in most cases it is obvious by the end of high school who the brightest and best are – is not exactly an unsupported statement.

  • Zingzing

    Igor–yep, it’s an anecdote. That means that while it may be true in your experience, it’s not necessarily true in others. I’ve seen enough to know that your experience in this matters differs significantly from mine (which is not the opposite of yours, but one where the opposite of your experience happens with roughly the same frequency as your experience holds true). Also, calm down a bit. No one called you a liar… It’s just hard to imagine you really think your experience must hold true for everyone. Maybe that’s not what you’re saying, but it’s all I’m saying.

  • Igor

    Vague recollection and a strained analogy do not add up to a sound argument.

  • Igor, my claim – that in most cases it is obvious by the end of high school who the brightest and best are – is not exactly an unsupported statement. It is common knowledge.

    Now, I’m the first to accept that common knowledge is not always correct. For example, it was once common knowledge that the Earth was the centre of the universe and the sun, planets and stars all orbited around it. This we now know to be false.

    However, if all Galileo had done was to say, “The planets revolve around the Earth? Really? My observations tell me that they don’t”, he would with a fair degree of justification have been told to put the opium pipe away and go back to playing with pendulums.

    But he didn’t. He published his observations in the form of his Dialogue, for others to read, check and test, and his hypothesis was thereby vindicated.

    So if you have any studies to hand that show a correlation between mediocre high school grades and genius, feel free to share.

    I did myself read something earlier that showed many gifted children fail as adults, due to having poor social skills, which seems to argue for the exact opposite of your proposition, but I can’t find it now. I’ll have another dig around.

  • Igor

    Dr. D: wait a minute buddy, you say:

    166 – Dr Dreadful

    Igor, you’re the one making the claim. The onus is therefore on you to provide the data.

    And yet, YOU were the one offering UNSUPPORTED statements that I responded to:

    127 – Dr Dreadful

    Clavos is correct in that by the time students are preparing to finish high school, it’s usually pretty obvious which ones are the “best and brightest”.

    Out of the blue. No evidence offered. Who has the ‘onus’ now?


    How is my offer of anecdotal evidence inferior?

    Can you perhaps offer some contrary ‘anecdotal’ evidence.? Something that rises above ‘obvious’?

    I don’t give a damn about exposing your mental confusion, I’d just like you to contribute some information (instead of throwing dust in the air), and I’d love to see a citation to a refereed study.

    Do I have to do everything myself?

  • Igor

    Let’s take a look at this statement:

    157 – zingzing
    igor–that’s what’s known as an anecdote… i doubt your observations by themselves are statistically relevant.

    First of all, anecdotes are stories or previously unpublished information, therefore not intrinsically untrue or insignificant. They are unrelated to statistics.

    So, what are you saying? Do you think I am lying? Do you think other people report different observations, different anecdotes?

    Or are you just contriving an excuse to ignore what is offered? Do you think that ‘anecdote’ is a dirty word to smear something?

    Perhaps it would help if you report YOUR experience in this area. Your anecdotes.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Igor –

    My experience with the levels of accomplishment by different high school students was quite different from your own (see #159), and just as anecdotal as your own. Care to reply to that one instead of waiting on Clavos?

  • Zingzing

    Igor, you put a lot of trust in anecdotal evidence, and you ask us to put a lot of trust in you, which I would do, except your anecdotal evidence seems like too much of an ironic reversal, more shakesperean tragedy (or comedy, i suppose) than real life. If it’s not completely false, it does seem at least that’s it’s not all true either.

    And if you ask about peer-reviewed papers, I challenge you to find one that backs up your position. My position seems like common sense…

  • Igor

    @165-Clav: yes, it proves a lot: I have ONE data point and you have NONE! I have INFINITELY more data than you.

    Maybe it’s of small consequence, but it’s true. And others I’ve talked to report the same experience.

    But, Clav, here’s your chance to educate me! Tell me about YOUR experiences! Or, tell me about the longitudinal studies you’ve read on HS grades vs. accomplishment.

    Here’s your chance, Clav!

    Your move.

    I’m waiting.

    I’m waiting.

    I’m waiting.

  • There was a pub in Maitland (NSW) called The Bricklayer’s Arms. Tee hee. I bet there’s a million of ’em in England.

    There probably are, Stan, especially in the Peterborough area.

    Far and away the best pub in London is the Churchill Arms in Kensington Church Street, just around the corner from Notting Hill Gate tube station. Pay it a visit next time you’re in the Old Dart. The landlord is an Irishman named Jerry, and if you greet him by name he will welcome you like an old friend even though he doesn’t know you from Adam.

    The clincher is that, incongruously, there is a fantastic, and very reasonably priced (by anywhere’s standards, not just London’s) Thai restaurant in the back. You have to call a day or two ahead to make a reservation, but at a pinch they can sometimes bring you food out front in the pub – IF you can find a table. The place is always packed.

  • Igor, you’re the one making the claim. The onus is therefore on you to provide the data.

    The reason your anecdotal evidence is suspect is that it is subjective. It is your experience and yours alone. It doesn’t follow that your personal observations are representative of the world at large.

    To me it’s especially questionable because you claim that the people you know from childhood who have been successful in adult life are exclusively those who did poorly in school, whereas the ones who got good grades have all failed in life.

    If this is true, then the faculty at the high school you attended must have been particularly abysmal at spotting potential, and I trust that the establishment has since been closed down.

    And speaking of people not offering refutation, I’m still waiting for your answer to the question I posed in #131.

  • Clav

    zing: yes, it’s anecdotal. But it is also a fact. Do you have contrary anecdotal evidence?

    Doesn’t matter whether he does or not, his point is valid and he doesn’t have to prove a negative.

    Though your anecdote may well be true, it’s only one example, from your school — proves nothing in the big picture.

  • Igor

    I give a datapoint and it’s criticised as anecdotal, yet not ONE anecdotal experience is offered in refutation. Let alone a cited reference to an actual study.

    The BC crowd seems to live in a bubble, where all that counts is ones own fantasizing about what the world may be.

    Zing and dr. D thus fail the lowest level intellectual test.

    How did you guys do in Highschool?

  • STM


    There was a pub in Maitland (NSW) called The Bricklayer’s Arms. Tee hee. I bet there’s a million of ’em in England.

  • Igor

    @157-zing: yes, it’s anecdotal. But it is also a fact. Do you have contrary anecdotal evidence? Have you read any peer-reviewed papers on the matter? Or are your ideas entirely the product of your imagination?

  • The Fox and Hounds? Nah, that place was dead.

    The Wattenden Arms – now that was the place to be.

  • STM

    Doc: “Oh, and we don’t do high school reunions where I come from. Thank goodness”.

    If you don’t count every second Friday night at the Fox and Hounds.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Igor –

    I strongly disagree that highly-ranked students somehow usually “get mediocre results”. The high-ranked students who are there because of self-discipline do very, very well, thank you very much. Of course, that didn’t apply to me – I was supposed to be fairly intelligent, but did not have the self-discipline to back it up.

    It would seem to me that a student’s self-discipline is the greatest determinant when it comes to that student’s likely success in the future, and that while one’s level of raw intelligence is a factor, it is not the most significant factor by any means.

    But first, define success. If making hundreds of thousands per year is your definition, I’m certainly not successful. However, if being a happy camper with a happy family life is your definition, then I’m quite successful – but then, I ascribe that more to being insanely lucky (blessed, actually) than to being intelligent.

  • I went to my 20th, 30th and 50th [class reunions] and that was my experience. That was the fact. Empirical fact.

    Igor, your personal experience is not empirical fact since it cannot be independently measured, tested and verified. Let’s see some actual data to back up your claim. (The anecdotes about Einstein and others don’t cut it, since geniuses are by definition more brilliant than their teachers who are therefore ill-equipped to fully recognise their potential. What about the rest of us? Ordinary non-geniuses like you and me?)

    Oh, and we don’t do high school reunions where I come from. Thank goodness.

  • zingzing

    igor–that’s what’s known as an anecdote… i doubt your observations by themselves are statistically relevant.

    some of whom much is expected fail, and some of whom nothing much is expected excel, but that’s definitely not always the case. it’s certainly romantic though… it would be nice to think that a ship running towards the rocks can always right itself… and it wouldn’t be nice to wish that someone born with a silver spoon always ends up choking on it… but life doesn’t always work out that way. plenty of people born with expectations and advantages go on to succeed quite nicely, and some people never make it out of the muck.

  • Igor

    @127-Dr D. is wrong, and so is Clavos. Everyone I know says, and it’s certainly my experience, that those who most was expected from failed, and the winners came from the unnoticed students.

    “Clavos is correct in that by the time students are preparing to finish high school, it’s usually pretty obvious which ones are the “best and brightest”.

    Obviously you haven’t been going to your HS class reunions!

    I went to my 20th, 30th and 50th and that was my experience. That was the fact. Empirical fact.

  • STM

    Elected school boards n the US??

    What, no professional bureaucrats and career public servants f..king everything up instead?

    Which is worse? My daughter is currently studying a subject and I swear the course was written by a watermelon (green on the outside, red on the inside). I suspect this person’s idea of nirvana would be to live on a local farm in Tasmania eating only local produce (which didn’t include steak). But since most greenies don’t actually live in the real rural part of Oz but tend to reside instead in urban areas where they are trying to force their radical ideas on those of us who simply want to drive to work and put any food we can on the table without being preached at, that ain’t gunna happen …

    Sadly, I have no say over what she gets to study. Someone whose political views are diametrically opposed to mine (ie, too far to the left abd not even mainstream) gets to decide that. Someone whose ideas I’d normally find quite idiotic if I had the misfortune to end up next to them at a vegan dinner party.

    At least in the US, you’d get your choice of idiot if the vote went your way (imagine if it didn’t. Geez). And you just know it’d be the full range – the entire spectrum – of scary American nutcases from polar opposite ends of the political experience.

    Vote 1, two blokes like Archie and Franco

    Vote 2, two people of undetermind sexuality

    Vote 4, Anarcissie and Igor

    Vote 5, Big bearded guy in a chequered shirt and trucker cap with a cupboard full of really dangerous firearms.

    Vote 6, Wishy-washy liberal who can’t make a decision one way or the other.

    Vote 7, The Republican candidate with a Tea Party background (do it exactly my way and the way they did it 200 years ago or I’m taking my three-cornered hat and going home … again).

    Where are all the old, stuffy, pipe-smoking English and history professors who designed our curruculum.

    Oh, I know … sidelined by people with agendas who think they know best and don’t want anyone else’s opinions infringing on their God=given right to attempt to mould young minds in their own image.

    So, yeah, things might not be so different here and in the US after all.

  • Because that is SO much what SO many people want to do: use the schools to promulgate their peculiar beliefs. If you don’t believe me, go to a local school board meeting. Or take a look at Texas state textbook committee decisions.


    Much of the problem is that you Americans insist on electing educational boards, with the result that they end up peopled with soapbox-toting amaturds, rather than actual educators who are actually qualified to devise actual effective curriculums.

  • Igor

    @149-Ana: good points:

    Few think to ask what ‘the top’ is, or if racing is the way to get there, or what happens to those who are not winners in this race.

    One thing we’ve learned from history is that ‘the system’ is poor at predicting future success of students. So what? Who needs that predictability?

    Most successes were indifferent students. Most high-ranked students get mediocre results.

    So what?

    Maybe that’s the way things SHOULD be. If ‘the system’ were good at predicting the future then all that would happen is they’d get their ideological hooks into future leaders earlier. Because that is SO much what SO many people want to do: use the schools to promulgate their peculiar beliefs. If you don’t believe me, go to a local school board meeting. Or take a look at Texas state textbook committee decisions.

    It’s a GOOD thing that ‘the system’ neglects so many likely students and they have a chance to grow and prosper out of the control-freak view of the maniacs.

  • Can just picture the Scottish players running out onto the pitch, stopping dead in their tracks, looking at each other and saying, “You SURE this is an away game?”

  • STM

    I also prefer to see players get the ball over the line, ratherv than have the game decided by kicks. Still, Scotland played to their own strengths.

    The Wallabies play Wales on the weekend. The Welsh are playing pretty good running rugby at the moment and moving the ball through the hands right across the paddock. Hope that’s not another smash up for the men in gold.

  • STM

    Doc, shocker of a rugby Test, apart from the score … and probably worse for the players.

    Played in a torrential downpour and in winds gusting along the east coast in the vicinity of 150km/h in places, enough to bring trees and powerlines down across Sydney and the central coast and the Newcastle/Hunter region, where the game was played. Imagine getting your first crack at a test guernsey and the bastards send you out in those conditions.

    No thanks. It was bad enough watching it in front of the heater at home.

    I’m glad Scotland won. They deserve it just for flying three quarters of the way across the world hoping for a nice time in sunny Oz and then having to run across the chalk in a howling gale with the heavens dumping a year’s rainfall on them in one night. I know they’re used to it, but still …

  • Anarcissie

    A useful analysis of education needs to begin with a fundamental idea of what it is and what it is supposed to do. At present, people mostly talk past one another, indeed, often talk past themselves, so to speak. This is how destructive, self-contradictory slogans like ‘race to the top’ become policy (or the cover of other policies). Few think to ask what ‘the top’ is, or if racing is the way to get there, or what happens to those who are not winners in this race — the majority we will be stuck with, indeed, the majority who will be, mostly, ourselves and our children.

  • Igor

    There are two ideas that seem to be popular in teaching administration that I think are foolish:

    1-“Race To The Top” – which is the Obama and Arne Duncan slogan for their education policy. Competitions don’t improve education. They’re just gimmicks to appeal to parents. The landscape is littered with straight-A students who later failed. Students will do well primarily if they are interested in a subject, and secondly if they know someone (sometimes a teacher) who is also interested.

    2-“Fire the bad teachers”: it’s too hard to tell who the bad teachers are (student test scores don’t do it) and you risk firing a good teacher for extraneous reasons. For most students who succeed it is because of a rare teacher who inspires them, not because of a conformant staff.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Arch –

    Do you think, then, that a parent should be able to keep a child from ever attending school? What’s your position on the subject?

  • Something to cheer you up after the Scotland game, Stan?

  • STM

    Ting the bells. Archie returns. This can only be a good thing.

    Where’s ya bin man??

  • Arch Conservative

    Education is not a right?

    Are you trying to make Glenn, Igor and the gang choke on their hot pockets?

  • Igor

    Einstein gave the entire proceeds of the 1921 Nobel prize to Mileva, with which she bought a good boarding house in Switzerland that provided her an excellent living for the rest of her life.

    (Everybody knows that Albert was a hound dog, right? He figured out that the most erogenous organ in the human body is the mind, thus proving that he really was a genius, just not very good in math.)

  • Anarcissie

    136 — Agreed. So the question really seems to be, do people have a right not to go to college? I mean, of course, to not go without suffering discrimination based on irrational prejudice, as if they were improperly pigmented, had the wrong sexual organs, were too old, too young, too ethnic, wore funny clothes, did not move about in a sufficiently graceful manner, and so forth.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Igor –

    That’s a good story – thanks. I’ll remember that.

  • Igor

    Einstein would never have survived a modern entrance committee. He was actually lucky to get admitted in Zurich. But many drones would have survived: that’s what they do.

    Einstein was ALWAYS an indifferent mathematician, but he had excellent insight and perception. And he was bold.

    For example his 1900 paper on Meniscus was brilliant, but mathematically flawed. One might even say that the math didn’t support his argument, which was genius. He later withdrew the paper.

    But his published math improved as Milevas math improved. She undoubtedly deserves equal credit for the Special Theory, as would doubtless be revealed if her original papers are found. But Mileva suffered another no-no of the control-freaks, the committees, the peer reviewers: she was a mere female!

    But Einstein knew the truth and gave Mileva the ENTIRE proceeds of the Nobel prize even after they were split. He Knew.

    Einsteins apparent proficiency in math improved as Milevas influence came to bear. When asked about it, Mileva said: “we are one stone.” (Ein Stein, get it?)

  • Igor

    True, Einsteins grades were not uniformly bad, they were erratic. He scored well when he was interested and poorly when he wasn’t, or when the coursework was rote or militant.

    Erratic performance and poor discipline are both negatives to most entrance committees.

  • roger nowosielski


    Same here.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Homeschooling is only good for those kids whose parents have the ability, inclination, determination, and TIME to do so. For instance, in the modern world where both parents work, who’s going to be there to supervise the kid?

    For those who really do have the opportunity and the ability to homeschool, sure, go for it! But the vast majority of parents cannot do so.

  • Zingzing

    Having read #84, it’s not just gov’t, or even gov’t at all, that uses college education in the way Anna describes… It’s business and society… Almost anyone who’ll throw money your way except gov’t. There’s many problems with gov’t, but don’t go blaming them if a company wants a BA/S before they’ll give you a job. Try petitioning the gov’t for money without a degree, then try wall street, then try most any desk job… Then try any job that demands some sort of certification. I dunno, 84 seemed to be barking up one tree when there was a whole grove around. And yet I know several people who never graduated college who make more money than I do.

  • 125 I am sorry to see that no one was interested in your analysis (#84), Anarcissie. Unfortunately, it is what I expected.

  • Zingzing

    Standardized testing is the bane of education. They should be used as one measure among many, not a cut off and funding tool. Students, teachers and schools are being cheated by these things.

  • Clav

    Although I’m not sure how this would be assessed if more kids were homeschooled, as is beloved of many conservatives.

    You’re right, it is. Some do it for religious reasons, but the majority these days are driven to it because they can’t afford private schools and are justifiably appalled at the dismal state of state education (perhaps we should call it the “State of the State.”)

    As for measuring their educational levels: test ’em; they have to take the same group tests (SAT, etc.) that the public school kids take for college admission; the ones I know personally have done very well and are in or headed to excellent universities, including Ivy League and the better British and European schools.

  • Clav

    Wonderful anecdotes, Igor.

    But they say nothing about the student population as a whole.

  • And Igor, perhaps you’d care to explain how being popular in high school gets you good grades.

    I don’t know how it is over here, but in the UK where I went to school the final exams are adjudicated by external examining bodies, not by the faculty of the school the student attends.

  • Einstein? Bad example, Igor. The story that he was a mediocre student is a myth. He graduated with excellent grades in most subjects, particularly the sciences.

    This article – run it through Google Translate if your German ain’t all that – has a photo of his high school certificate.

  • Igor

    @127-Dr D: what BS! All highschool shows is who was most popular. That’s what highschool is about! POPULARITY!

    The “best and brightest” in my HS were either pregnant by graduation or became used car salesmen.

  • Igor

    I guess you were born yesterday, Clav, to have so little knowledge or experience.

    ALL of us know of kids who were written off by the smartasses of education and who went on to become famous names. Einstein, Edison, Bell, McCormack, Watt, etc., The list goes on and on.

    History was invented by failures!

    My highschool pal Lou never even took the SATs or considered college. He didn’t even take one exam or apply to even one college. He figured he’d become a tailor in his uncles tailorshop.

    But Lou hit the jackpot! His dad was a janitor at the brewery and somehow Lou won a full-boat 4 year scholarship to any school in the nation! Now he had to find a school that would admit him, since the few credentials he had were really lousy. But he did, went on to study chemistry (Lou loved explosions!) became a prof at a famous eastern brain bank, retired as prof emeritus, gray haired, ultra-rightist, etc., all the signs of professional success. After 9/11/2001 the “WTC Commission” called him in to study the ruins for explosion evidence.

    Now if you talk to Lou, he’ll tell you the same bullcrap about selecting out the best students! But if such a system had been in force in 1955, today Lou would be a 75 yr. old bent-over tailor trying to scratch out a living in a society of ready-made hong kong suits!

    The history of academic “tracking” is a record of failure. They did that in Europe and England, and the only real successes they had were guys who went outside the system.

    Invariably, the juicy jobs would be given to the spoiled offspring of the over-privileged.

    The famous physicist Michio Kaku interviews two scientists every week for his excellent radio program “Explorations in Science” (and if you’re not listening to it every week your ignorance is deepening by the inexorable progress of science itself). Yes, it’s on radio: TV for grownups. There are several youtube talks for the challenged.

    Everyone he’s talked to was self-taught and self-inspired. The educational environment provides some learning opportunities, but otherwise all it does is damage students.

    OPPORTUNITY! That’s the magic word. ‘Control’ is worthless. And despite that the !@#$% control-freaks still try to push pegs into the wrong holes.

  • Clavos is correct in that by the time students are preparing to finish high school, it’s usually pretty obvious which ones are the “best and brightest”. (Although I’m not sure how this would be assessed if more kids were homeschooled, as is beloved of many conservatives.)

    Counter to that, though, are the rogue factors, such as the bright kids who get discouraged from expressing their brightness, either by their peers or by teachers. And in that sense, Igor is quite right that compulsory schooling can’t detect all talent.

    For example, up to the age of 12 I enjoyed art, was fairly good at it, and got good grades. At that point, I was unfortunate enough to get put in an art class with a teacher who took an intense dislike to me. In the space of about three months she managed to turn me around from loving to draw and paint to hating it and having zero belief in my artistic abilities – to the extent that it was 25 years before I ever picked up a brush again.

    I often wonder what course my life might have taken if she had bothered to actually teach artistic techniques rather than let me sit in a corner and daub because she thought I wasn’t worth the effort.

    The world after the age of 18 is quite different. It can be quite a jolt for a teenager to discover that, actually, the universe is populated by and large by people who treat you like an adult – and not exclusively by kids and teachers who act like dicks. It can drastically change your perspective on and attitude to education, albeit it took a decade or two in my case.

    I think the entry requirements for college in the US are far too relaxed, but that everyone should have the opportunity to at least try to get into college, without finances having to be an issue.

  • Clav

    nobody knows who the best students will be.

    You’re nothing if not good for a laugh, Igor. You post horseshit as if it were gospel — with no support, no authentication.

    Thanks for the amusement, Dude.

  • Anarcissie

    123 — 84.

    Note also that a college education will not necessarily inculcate anything of value in its target. The present American baccalaurate evolved from the educational program designed for young English gentlemen of the 17th and 18th centuries, who already had jobs or at least roles and a good place in the social order of their times. It was a kind of finishing-school program, and had little or nothing to do with vocation or occupation. From that descends, for instance, the rather peculiar idea, not based in evidence and reason but on tradition, that this phase of education, what we might call marinating, must take four years regardless of its content.

  • Igor

    Clavos is wrong: nobody knows who the best students will be. It’s just a control-freaks fantasy: that he knows what the future holds and that he has the skills to control it.

  • roger nowosielski

    Got to spell it out, Ana. This is a site composed mainly of libs, and their conception of what is a political problem may be quite different.

  • Igor

    @119-Clavos: the problem, Clavos, is that no one knows who the “best and brightest” are, and attempts to do that have resulted in debacles like Vietnam, etc.

    So attempts to narrow educational opportunity are doomed to end with suckups, aggressors, cheats and family favorites getting the best and rarest positions. Whereas, the best results usually proceed from the most unlikely and unlikeable students.

    Therefore, you have to throw open the doors of opportunity to as many comers as possible.

  • Anarcissie

    None of you seem to see the political problem. Yet it’s all around you, and getting worse.

  • STM

    Yes, university should be for the best and brightest. Helping those best and brightest to get there by levelling the playing is pretty important, though.

    However, Clav is absolutely right … there is no point in any bastard just rocking up to a univetrsity and saying, “Hey man, I want a degree”. You have to be able to earn it … and in the time-honoured way.

    That is, by studying your tits off to get it.

  • Clavos

    There’s more to learn now than ever before…

    Which is the best argument I’ve heard yet for cherry-picking who gets to go to college and limiting those chosen to only the best and the brightest.

    Trying to teach disciplines on the order of physics or quantum mechanics to a kid with an IQ of 90 will not ensure that we don’t fall behind, it will hasten our demise.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    In a column published yesterday, Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson, without actually arguing whether or not education is a “right,” discusses why the idea of college for everyone should be abandoned.

    Actually, I’m of the opinion that due to how greatly humanity has advanced, as time goes on, in order for America (or any nation, for that matter) to compete, high school graduates will be required to continue into college (for free) – or else partake in an apprenticeship or join the military (or some other government-run (or government-funded) service corps) where they will receive job skills.

    Clavos, we must either compete…or fall behind. Whatever your arguments about taxes or freedom may be, and even though you seem to think that government is the root of all incompetency, you can’t get around the way the world is progressing technologically. There’s more to learn now than ever before, and the learning curve will only get steeper. We will either compete (and pay the taxes to make sure our children are educated enough to compete) or we will fall behind. In the long run, those are the only options we have.

    You just need to learn to stop worrying and love the idea of government (to paraphrase the title of a certain Peter Sellers film).

  • The UK is already divided, Stan, and I reckon independence for England would actually make us all get along much better.

    There are hundreds and thousands of Brits living in Spain alone and around 10% of our entire population lives abroad at any one time so I think we are much more internationalised than you might imagine.

    As to the Eurozone, the whole European project has many massive structural problems; the challenge for it is whether the necessary reforms will be instituted or not and on that point the jury is still out. I will say that I used to be more optimistic about the prospects for reform than I am now, but that is in large part due to the poor standard of politicians and political debate we have these days.

  • STM

    Divided you fall. Rosey.

    I’ve never understood why England doesn’t have a separate state-style legislature like Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    It’s almost a federal system now; why not go the whole hog.

    Seriously, why not have a federal system like the US or Australia. The problem for England is its size relative to the others, although in Australia, NSW and Victoria have a greater combined population than the other states put together. The only other state heading towards this is Queensland, but it’s not there yet. They are all clustered on the east coast, I suppose like a giant England relative to the rest.

    However, the disparity is far greater in the UK with England’s size and population relative to the other three “states”.

    So, divide England into two or three administrative zones if need be, each with a legislature, but the country is still England.

    I’m serious Chris about division; if the countries separate, the UK will be a series of little Switzerlands and an English-speaking version of Belgium.

    Having the clout Britain does in world affairs and financially, historically and culturally across the globe is good for ALL Britons in my view.

    I realise you lived in Spain for a while, but Britons have never REALLY regarded themselves as true Europeans in the sense the French and Germans and Spanish have.

    It’s always been “us and the rest of ’em on the Continent” … that mysterious place on the other side of the Channel where we go for holidays or to retire in the sun.

    Such a small body of water, such a vast gulf in ideas and attitudes. That’s why Britain gave birth to modern liberal democracy while everyone else “on the Continent” was still out burning heretics at the stake, cutting off the heads of the peasants and aristocrats (and then just about anyone who actually still possessed a head) or impaling people on stakes.

    And so will it ever be.

    Chris, don’t get into bed with the great unwashed on the other side of that ditch. As it stands now, you’re still only in a kind of abstract semi-committed relationship (not joining the eurozone must now seem in hindsight a very sensible move).

    Britain will never really be part of Europe the way those on the Continent see Europe.

    So get out of that bed, put your socks on and go back to the one-night stands.

  • I’m one English man that sees his self as English first and European second.

    I have no interest in the concept of Britishness and resent the fact that England is the only constituent nation of the UK that doesn’t have its own parliament.

    Independence for England!

  • I’m talking about the 18th century, Stan, not the 21st. 😉

  • STM

    Doc: “at the beginning of the 18th century, a small, impoverished, scruffy, backward, wild and squalid nation on the benighted fringes of civilization”.

    What, America?

  • STM

    Yes, Doc, I have no problem with them all being lumped together as the creators of this amazing thing. The Irish and Welsh too. I know the British Empire was founded by the British and Irish – not by the English. It’s a pity the nastiness couldn’t remain confined to Six Nations rugby matches.

  • Stan, I’ll grant you that the Scots have never been known for being great sailors (though the shades of Alexander Selkirk and John Paul Jones – yep, that John Paul Jones – might have a thing or two to say about that). But as far as the Enlightenment (Hutcheson, Hume, Adam Smith, Cullen, Joseph Black, Hutton etc), the Industrial Revolution (McAdam, Dunlop, Telford, Watt, Fairbairn etc) and the building of the British Empire went, those lads were right in the vanguard.

    The British Army actively sought out Scottish officers because they were considered the best fighters. (Not because of the kilts, which were Highland dress: almost all the Scottish recruits were Lowlanders.) The Scottish regiments have long been regarded as among the toughest and most feared in the entire Army. It was also a Scot – Lieutenant-General Sir David Henderson – who thought up the Intelligence Corps and the Royal Air Force.

    It’s an odd residual quirk of the Empire that almost all Scots regard themselves as Scottish first and British second. (The same is true of the Welsh.) With the English, it’s the other way round. So many of my compadres, when they think of the great achievements of the “British” Empire, are subconsciously thinking of Englishmen and women doing all of that. It’s important to acknowledge the enormous contributions of Scotland.

    Not bad for what was, at the beginning of the 18th century, a small, impoverished, scruffy, backward, wild and squalid nation on the benighted fringes of civilization.

  • STM

    “Oi, get this into ya, ye Sassenach (tee hee, Jock, look – he’s actually eating it. Stupid Englishman. Now we’ll put on oooor kilts and fire ooop the bagpipes and really do the poor bugger’s heeed in).”

  • STM

    Clav: Mate, have you tried the haggis? I reckon you have to be slightly drunk to eat it. It goes well with a nip or 20 of scotch whisky … and actually doesn’t taste too bad (provided no one tells you what’s actually in it).

    However, I probably wouldn’t order it in a fine-dining establishment. Nor would any other sane person, I feel … which is probably why the Scots love the stuff.

    It’s another wonderful “up yours” to Doc’s mob south of the border.

  • STM

    Thanks Rog. What made Orwell so special was he moved in a class others of his ilk would have avoided like the plague because he wanted the truth. But did he really get it … ?

    Meanwhile, Doc writes: “Must have been something in the porridge.”

    Doc, this is a fallacy that must be treated with the contempt it deserves – even if there’s a little grain (no pun intended) of truth in it.

    I suppose that’s why you always hear “Hearts of Oak” played on the bagpipes – an instrument favoured by the Scots that is best described as the missing link between noise and music.

    Oh wait, you don’t. It’s sung lustily by men with English accents 🙂

    OK, I’ll agree that the Scots (canny buggers that they are) did much of the trading in the far-flung outposts of the Empire, mostly to make a quid, and that the Scottish regiments (tough buggers that they are) of the British Army did much of the fighting a) just for the sake of it, and b) to enable their fellow Scotsmen to keep making a quid.

    However, that was also often NOT the case.

    And the real spreaders of the greatest Empire in history did so in ships.

    The Royal Navy’s fighting vessels were mostly crewed and operated by Englishmen.

    Don’t sell yourself short, Doc, with that English-style “Oh, well, we really didn’t have that much to do with it” attitude.

    You are one of the inheritors of a fabulous and most remarkable history. Even our our American cousins inherit it, warts and all, as do we down this neck of the woods. It used to be fashionable to decry it. Now, no sane person would if the ledger is examined with a keen eye.

    It is nothing to be ashamed of Doc. The opposite, in fact. No need to go blaming the hairy and the kilted, who were well supported by their wild heathen brethren from across the Irish sea in much of this amazing endeavour.

    Or, as Dave Nalle once said to me of the British: “Now, there’s a people who never reached their full potential.”

    I took it to mean that given the circumstances of the time, he’d included the Irish in that summation.

    Geez, man, 40 per cent of this country’s inhabitants claim Irish background. I’m one, and it only goes back one generation.

    Scotsmen be buggered. It was the Irish who brought both the drinking games and the revolutionary train of thought to the table.

  • roger nowosielski

    Excellent analysis, STM.

  • STM

    Yes, Igor, it may appear so if you were to look at what Orwell has said about himself through the American cultural experience – but it would not be accurate.

    There are things in relation to this you simply can’t understand living in America if you’ve never experienced that part of English society.

    In the England of the time, Orwell was actually from quite a privileged background. True: There’s privilege … then there’s privilege. The Blairs had money, but they weren’t filthy rich.

    In Britain, privilege and social status are not always measured in dollar terms. A stony broke Earl will have a much higher social status than a hugely wealthly industrialist with new money. That is still true up to a point.

    It’s why some parts of British society might consider many well-off Americans – or indeed, anyone from anywhere flashing a big wad of cash – to be “vulgar” (even if they’re really not) and thus lacking in “breeding”. Trust me, they do believe these things, even today.

    Orwell was, in fact, descended from the aristocracy – and therefore would have been considered by the people handing out the scholarships to Eton to be “the right type of character”.

    Even paying half the annual fee at Eton is a big financial impost. You pay both tuition AND boarding costs. So the truth is, the family had more money than most.

    You can bet the family tree also played a role in his getting there. Orwell was socially awkard with everyone, which likely played a role in how he saw himself.

    I suspect that as a committed democratic socialist and a believer in social justice and social engineering, this was also Orwell’s way of playing down what his real social status was: that of the hereditary British elite – and in much the same way as rich Americans find the need to hand out wads of cash as philanthropists, or adopt children from third-world countries, in order to assuage their misplaced feelings of guilt for being wealthy.

    Orwell always struggled to genuinely relate in his encounters with working-class people, which is probably why he found their lives so fascinating and, to cement and confirm his own political views, had a need to experience their lives first hand. While he did a good job of that, Eton-educated Orwell always had the chance to leave and go back to the life he normally led. Those he befriended in in his social experiment did not.

    Whatever Orwell might have said in regard to his own circumstances, don’t view it through the clouded and blurry prism of the vastly different American experience. The two are completely different and can’t be compared.

    In English terms, of lower-class background – the way that, for instance, a kid from Brooklyn might see himself as being from good lower- or working-class stock – Orwell most definitely was not.

  • Igor

    @99-STM: Orwell made it quite clear in his writings that he was ONLY a lowerclass scholarship admission (to pump up the scores of ‘public’ schools) and he was never accepted socially by others, the offspring of the elite.

    “Orwell, meanwhile, was a product of Eton – one of the most exclusive schools in the world.”

  • Herr Profesor Igor

    @96-Cindy: I agree! Everyone in education seems to think it’s their privilege to inject their favorite propaganda!

    “It sounds like some sort or Orwellian nightmare to me. I have stated that, in my view, what passes for education is really indoctrination.”

  • Clavos

    In a column published yesterday, Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson, without actually arguing whether or not education is a “right,” discusses why the idea of college for everyone should be abandoned.

  • Clavos

    I think it’s the Haggis, Doc. A people who can not merely stomach such a “dish,” but actually devour it with great gusto, will not easily be deterred by anything.

  • how does a small country in the North Sea end up kicking off the industrial revolution and running three-quarters of the world’s trade and planting its own flag across a third of the globe?

    It was pretty much the Scots actually, Stan.

    Must have been something in the porridge.

  • STM

    In short, I tend to the Brits as being rather enlightened in regard to education. They are certainly high achievers – how does a small country in the North Sea end up kicking off the industrial revolution and running three-quarters of the world’s trade and planting its own flag across a third of the globe? – and they’re a clever bunch to boot.

    Education as a right is a wonderful thing, and of great benefit to the state as much as the individual.

  • STM

    Igor, compulsory education was introduced in Britain in 1880. Compulsory education at secondary school level was introduced in 1918 up to the age of 14, at which point those who chose not to contunue could leave and join the workforce, generally through an apprenticeship of some sort, which also required further study. Prior to the compulsory education act, most children were educated, generally through schools run by the church and supported by the state – although not everyone got it.

    Orwell, meanwhile, was a product of Eton – one of the most exclusive schools in the world. He won a scholarship but had attended what Americans would call a private school prior to that.

    The offering of genuine state-suported compulsory education in Britain – with the possibility for those clever enough to go on to university – roughly follows the same timeline as that of the US.

    The state-supported grammar school system in Britain (high schools) post world war I produced as many high-achieving folk as did the “public-school” system (which are actually high-fee private schools) – probably more, in fact. Americans who see that a Briton was “public-school” educated need to be mindful that it doesn’t mean public school the way it does in the US, Australia and Canada. It means privelege and wealth or, as in Orwell’s case, scholarship.

    Also, in the UK there was no colour bar to secondary or tertiary education. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t prejudice, but there was no actual bar as there was in some states of the US.

  • Anarcissie

    I think education as it is practiced in contemporary class-based industrial societies, like the United States, can be defined as the management of the intellectual powers of the people in the interests of and according to the desires. understandings, and ideology of its ruling class.

    Education is not the same as learning, training, indoctrination, information or knowledge. A very important aspect of education is that it is something done by some (the education industry) to others who are relatively powerless and ignorant, whereas learning, training, and so forth can take place anywhere and can be even autonomous.

    As I mentioned previously, a community cannot continue to exist as itself unless it replicates itself physically and culturally. We are mostly talking about the cultural part here, culture being whatever is not given by nature. Education is part of that replication and takes its form and direction from the existing culture.

  • Igor

    IMO many people are anti-education because they see education as a valuable commodity that must be rationed. To them it seems that it is best, then, to vest education in the children of the elite since the elite has already proven it’s worthiness and superiority through it’s struggles in the marketplace.

    That seems to work OK with bureaucracies and the priesthood where power is the all-important quantity that must be rationed and concentrated. And so historic elites like the confusionists and catholics and the British empire were supreme in that environment.

    But the first half of the 20th century seems to have demolished that, as forbidden knowledge secured by the Americans, nazis, etc., demolished the exclusivity of empire knowledge (after all, Ghandi accomplished liberty through knowledge and use of the forbidden empirical knowledge of Law, and even the practice model of Cricket). The nazis seized the forbidden knowledge of science to further their sordid goals.

    The mass unleashing of education among the masses of American soldiers after WW2 as the GI Bill Of Rights kicked in and masses of American peasants (heretofore only considered cannon fodder by the American elite) grabbed hold of their new educational opportunities and went on to seize positions of authority and power throughout society.

    That wave of American professionals, sponsored by the US Taxpayer, went on to build the greatest industrial system in the world. We are still harvesting benefits from that investment.

    And we can continue getting benefits from widespread education IF we continue to make education inexpensive and available to all.

    But if we narrow educational opportunities to the Chosen Ones (who are always chosen by the elite, and always chosen to mirror themselves), we will sink back into the mire of history.

  • Glenn,

    Who decides what education is?

    It sounds like some sort or Orwellian nightmare to me. I have stated that, in my view, what passes for education is really indoctrination.

    How does your legal responsibility to “educate” children play out? Will people like me have to join some underground railroad to protect our children from legally being forced to implant our children with your version of reality?

    (I was never so happy as I have become over the past few years that I never had children. I think this culture is crazy.)

  • Igor

    @76-roger: I don’t have a “personality clash” with Clavos. But I guess he does with me. I hardly notice him. I DO think he’s a little arrested in his development and I don’t look forward to reading anything interesting or innovative in his writings.

  • Anarcissie

    Are we talking law or morals? If law, then under your theory at least children (whatever in particular you mean by that) have a right to education, which they can demand of their parents, or, if their parents fail, of the state. And since in American law children are usually ‘infants’, people who cannot speak legally for themselves, the government must intervene to enforce that rule regardless of the children’s own personal desires. Hence, compulsory public education, which is what we supposedly have now. Not very contrarian of you.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    How about this? Whether or not education is a right, education of the children is the duty (and IMO legal obligation) of the parents…whether they like it or not.

  • Anarcissie

    Utilitarian arguments (such as those given by me and others to the effect that education is a communal necessity) don’t necessarily touch the classical liberal notion of rights, however. If we take the U.S. Constitution as a standard, then the neither the government nor the community is obliged to offer or require education, but if it does, it is obliged to treat all of its constituents equally. But what does ‘equally’ mean? I don’t think we have to accept the irrationality of the one-size-fits-all panacea of college-produced bachelor’s degrees, but then we have the problem of the political and economic advantages I mentioned. Perhaps it would be necessary to abolish the degree system and even, as a matter of civil rights, make it illegal to ask for or examine the pedigree of a person’s skills and knowledge. The degree could be replaced, perhaps, by a set of examinations for particular skills, along the lines of drivers’ and pilots’ licenses, and it would be up to individuals and their counselors to decide what sort of schooling or study best suited his or her path through the examination system. Although, as I say, if the government offered help to some, it should offer equivalent help to all. Let us at least not tax the poor to assist the powerful and wealthy — if I may make a truly revolutionary suggestion.

  • 84, I think Anarcissie presents an excellent analysis.

  • STM

    Kyle: “Careful reading will show that I have addressed each of your points already and that you have offered no additional insight to my rebuttals.”

    Kyle, with respect, I couldn’t give a shit about your rebuttals or whether I’ve offered any additional insight into what I view as a flawed position. I am positing my own point of view, which – and in the same way that I don’t have to like yours – I don’t expect you either to like or agree with.

    I’m not trying to get you to agree with me, champ, nor am I telling you your argument is so bad, it’s not worth having.

    Intelligent debate isn’t always about who has the most foreceful viewpoint or the most lucid rebuttals. A point of view is only that.

  • Kyle,

    I am using the word dominant (as in the dominant culture) different way.

    An example of an idea outside our society’s dominant cultural views, may be helpful:

    “Owning the earth through a system of private property cannot be justified.”

    Those who see that statement about owning the earth as valid, as perhaps Native Americans or Inuit might, are a part of a marginalized subculture and have no means of acting according to their own beliefs or values from within the dominant US culture.

    The dominant culture is the one with the ability to implement its views through its command of political and economic power, through the ownership of land, through control of the flow of ideas and information via media and institutions (such as educational ones and others), through the establishment of laws, through coercion, through the creation of norms, and other means.

  • roger nowosielski

    Aristotelian argument, Igor. Inherent in the concept of human worth and human rights is making it possible for everyone to reach their natural potential. A kind of moral obligation we should cultivate on behalf all members of a human society.

  • Maybe education is some kind of right, although I suspect most people associate the term rights with things like civil rights and other examples of protecting people and their entitlements.

    In some ways though the argument as to whether education is a right or not is rather a red herring.

    As I said earlier in this conversation, modern states need well educated citizens and so do modern societies.

    Any nation that cares about its place in the world and the advancement of its people, culture and economy ought to be doing everything it can to ensure that all its citizenry be as well educated as possible. Similarly, any nation that seeks to keep its people ignorant must be deeply suspect at the very least.

    It follows therefore that in any healthy nation good education should be a requirement and including all citizens within that drive is simply an inclusive act of common sense and good management.

    As Igor says, all levels of society increasingly need well educated workers, particularly as modern technology continues to insert itself into all areas of work and play.

    Being ignorant really ought to be some kind of social taboo – although in many countries these days it is actually intelligence and education that are seen as suspect by many, which is frankly perverse.

  • Igor

    I’m taking the position that Education IS a right.

    I do that for two reasons:

    1-we must democratise education to make sure that the people who can best benefit from education have access to education.

    2-the requirements of our modern society dictate that the very best among our young citizens are able to realize their potential and rise to positions of authority that benefit society.

    I offer this as evidence:

    A-reserving education as a privilege of the offspring of the rulers has been a failure wherever it was tried, such as Old Europe and Old England. In the end, they were only saved by the few good students recruited from the unprivileged masses (cf., George Orwell, etc.).

    B-stifling the educational aspirations of the peasantry can only lead to violent revolution. And it’s deserved.

    C-education at ALL levels of society is an increasing requirement for the survival and prosperity of society. There is almost NO PLACE for an unskilled laborer in modern society. Even on a construction site.

  • roger nowosielski

    I don’t think Kyle will see through your nuance, Ana since the battle lines, as far as he’s concerned, have been drawn.

    I suppose we should sympathize with him for having to teach political philosophy at Duke to unruly and poorly qualified students who have the preposterous idea that higher education is a right.

    Clavos was right in that this article was going to stir another hornets’ nest. Now we have threats, rumor and innuendos of threats, and possible murder in the offing.

    “Kill the professor” would be an appropriate working title for this work in progress.

  • Anarcissie

    It might clarify the discussion a little if people agreed on what they meant by ‘education’ and ‘right’.

    If we’re talking about the sort of rights described in the U.S. Constitution (for instance), the liberal rights, then if the government offers a benefit to anyone, in theory it has to offer it to all, as a matter of equal rights. It can’t discriminate against a category of citizens. Since the education industry, in America, anyway, serves as an important class filter, that is, gives and denies access to political and economic power, the theory of equal rights implies that some kind of equality of access to its politically important products (credentials) is required if it receives any support from the government.

    Hence the resonance of Santorum’s myth of Mr. O saying that everyone ought to go to college. While Santorum’s tale was not factually true, it was poetically true; unlike Santorum and his kind, liberals gesture, however vacuously, at equal rights, which implies equal access to political power and economic opportunity, however absurd that may seem, which in turn implies equal access to ‘college’, however ill-designed or empty that signifier may have become. The absurdity is taken care of by ensuring that the gesture remains merely a gesture.

  • trol l

    …right or wrong we’re all entitled to our fair shares of abuse

    primary education might not be a right but early childhood indoctrination certainly is an economic and political necessity

  • Cindy, it would be one thing if you have read me correctly, but you have not. I do mean what I write but you have misunderstood it. As for it being the dominant manner of thinking I have displayed, that’s false. The dominant opinion is that education is a right.

  • My apologies Kyle. I am sure you are no more indoctrinating of students than 99.9% of other teachers in all other institutions. Just because you are hawking the wares of the dominating culture in your writing is no reason to assume you believe what you write or that you teach it either.

    In any case, we are human. Anyone who comprehends what I was saying (and I think Roger N. pretty much does) will understand that I am not merely singling you out. I am speaking about the human condition within the “civilized” world that humans have created. It is what it is.

    I see no evidence that we as people, in general, can overcome what our own beliefs are in order to get much perspective on the ideas that have been implanted in us by virtue of the fact that there is a culture that has access to what ideas we experience. Even if we are willing to try hard to think beyond what we already believe, I think it is like watching a fire so it doesn’t go out. It would take constant vigilance and an honest willingness to question one’s own beliefs and see things from a different perspective. It would take the willingness to do this regardless of the frustration, anger, and agony it could cause. I don’t see many people doing it.

    Personally, I only see people willing to defend their own presuppositions, and look only at evidence for what they already believe.

    I don’t have much faith in this circus we humans have created. Now playing in ring one, “the liberals pummel the conservatives (or vice versa)”, in ring two “who’s fault is it anyway–why it’s clearly your fault”, and in ring three “none of you people are rational, but are blind fools who simply fail to look at the facts presented to you by (insert indoctrinated ideology here)”.

    I think we humans are what we are. When I hear you say that ‘rights’ and ‘entitlements’ are something we made up and something we might want to try to think beyond, then I will agree that you are not indoctrinating. But defending ideas within the given system, such as you are doing, will not lead to any change, it is stirring the ever putrid muck of the failure we have already created and it is just what supports they way things are. Those who are apologists for the system (including both the ‘liberal’ and the ‘conservative’ aspects of it), those who do not challenge it, are doomed to replicate it in their beliefs and in their teachings. That, I think, is the human condition.

  • STM–I give up. It’s obvious you read what you want rather than what has been written in the post and my subsequent responses. Careful reading will show that I have addressed each of your points already and that you have offered no additional insight to my rebuttals.

    Zing–Yes, really.

  • STM

    Kyle, if the only rights Americans had were those enumerated in the constitution, you’d be in the shit. If fundamentalist constitutionalists had their way, the running of day to day America would be based entirely on what’s contained in the Bill of Rights. One of the great things about anglo-American jurisprudence and liberal democracy and rule of law is that it allows the law of the land to evolve, which means the rights contained in the Bill of Rights, most f which might be seen as natural rights, can’t be taken away. However, Doc’s right about the 9th amendment – it’s very clear in its written form that having the rights contained in the bill or rights doesn’t mean citizens either don’t have others or can’t have others made law in the future, either through further amendments to the constitution, laws passed in state and federal parliaments or through the courts, also state and federal.

    I agree with your premise up to a point. A full education through to tertiary level is not a right beyond the notion that anyone who is good enough to go on and study for a degree has the right to do so. Levelling the playing field a bit to bring in those who otherwise might not have the opportunity isn’t a bad idea, even if it’s not a right.

    However, a basic education IS a right in a liberal democracy if it’s been decided that by law. Saying it hasn’t been called a right doesn’t make it any less a right if lawmakers have decided it is.

    The state is right to provide a basic education (as it benefits the state AND the individual). If you get through a basic education with the ability to go on and study further, well and good.

    It’s also not a bad return for your tax dollar.

  • Zingzing

    Anonymous death threats? (that’s a good band name for Florida metal bands.). Really? Or not really?

  • All right, so let me respond to all the mischaracterizations of my position and all those who think they have “got me” because they bring up an issue I never did. And for those of you emailing me anonymous death threats, that’s hardly persuasive.

    Education is good. The government should help fund it. That does not mean it is a right. If we as a people decide the government should cease funding it no one has been deprived of something they did not have before the government gave it to them. This is perfectly consistent with my definition of right. Any further questions or comments of rights please see my book the Price of Politics.

    If you respond to what I have written, please respond to what I have written rather than what you imagine I have written.

    Cindy, if you would like to insult my teaching please come and attend a class so then at least you will not be ignorant of what you refer to. I’ll foot the bill if the travel costs are prohibitive (I’m not hard to track down). I assure you, I am not the person you have characterized me as. You read what you wanted to rather than what has been written, something Roger N. has a habit of doing as well.

  • roger nowosielski


    In Clav’s defense, I find him a lucid thinker, one of the few conservatives on BC you can still have a decent discussion with. I think you two happen to have a personality clash.

    I’d surely be a nice thing to see both of you get over it.

  • Clavos

    Again I agree with you, Igor. I AM arrogant, and have nothing but contempt for twits like you, even though practically ALL of you are far more intelligent than I.

    Even GWB is brilliant compared to me, and he’s certainly far less arrogant than I.

    As for my reasoning; I obviously can’t hold a candle to your brilliant steel trap Aristotelian mind, but I don’t really care, because that mind of yours is, from my perspective, nothing but pixels on a screen, and for all I know, is stealing everything you post here.

    If my ideas “bespeak class warfare,” I’m not alone; even your president openly advocates it, and so do the Democrats who support him, though their numbers are dwindling rapidly.

    So please keep your silly high dudgeon, Igor; you provide a lot of laughs for my friends and me with it.

    For as old as you are, you certainly act immaturely and childishly on these pages, Igor; and apparently, the older you get, the more you regress. Obviously, the plumber and the maid never taught you the desirability of maturity and responsibility.

    Your bitterness and envy have overwhelmed you; what a sad life you must have led to bring you to this.

  • cindy

    Come to think of it, Glenn, it probably makes more sense to me and will have a much more beneficial effect, to be RRered than to read anything written here, including what I wrote. So thanks again for the uplift.

  • cindy

    Oh good job, Glenn. I got confused because of the similarity in comment. Keep up the good work.

  • roger nowosielski

    @64, paragraph 4

    There’s still a disconnect here, if we’re talking about “meaningless degrees.” As Cindy commented earlier on, we should be acquiring the tools with which to change the society, not those which would only help to perpetuate the class-division. It’s a kind of blind spot on OWS part, something the movement has got to come to terms with.

  • Igor

    @60-Clavos is wrong in both practice and theory.

    “If by that you mean everyone should have the opportunity to aspire to go to college, I agree. But if you mean everyone should have the opportunity to actually attend college, I disagree — strongly. Not everyone is qualified, and the high rates of dropouts as well as the large numbers of college “students” assigned to remedial reading and writing courses are evidence of that point.”

    Not only wrong, but malevolent.

    Arrogant people like you claimed that I would fail at University, but that they, who went to very privileged private high schools would succeed! With their highly trained teachers and shiny equipment! At my downtrodden school called “blackboard jungle” by everyone in town, we had scant equipment and unimpressive (but dedicated) teachers. All we had was our brains (and our parents, maids and plumbers, all, the humblest of US society).

    My state had a policy that any grad of a state high school was entitled to a one year try at the university. More than empty words about opportunity, REAL opportunity.

    After the first Physics test, which I thought was easy, my private school friends were flunking out.

    The best students I ever knew had similar stories. We were all unlikely candidates by your aristocratic measure.

    Because, you see, your malevolent ideas are not based on facts or good theory, they are based on class prejudice, the net effect of which is to prolong the status quo, pushing down the peasants while reserving the best opportunity for the get of the richest and most powerful.

    Your ideas bespeak class warfare.

    “A college education is not, and should not be a universal “right.” Neither the unqualified student nor society gain from his or her admission to college.”

    What an arrogant society twit you are!

    And as for your ‘reasoning’, I don’t believe you can think your way out of a wet paper bag.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy –

    Hey, that was mine! My very first RR!

  • Nice RR Clav. Took a while for me to consider clicking on a link with that label. Finally, I figured some sort of humor was afoot.

  • roger nowosielski

    My query was a rhetorical one, designed to draw in the hoi polloi. But thus far, the ploy hasn’t worked. Even the valiant Baronius is keeping his distance.

    In sny case, my thinking is, in order to have discontinuity (from the existing practices), you’ve got to have continuity first.

    Not exactly the old conservative mantra that all we got to do is to follow the established norms and mores, and society will go on its old merry way.

  • Anarcissie

    A community of living beings is itself a living organism, which changes constantly, just as the living beings who make it up do. While changing, it still has to replicate enough of its substance (physical and cultural) to go on living. Surely those who have a stake in the community as a whole have a stake in the education (or training and indoctrination, if you prefer) of its younger members. (But I suppose one might say they have a right not to support such a system, just as they have a right to stop eating and burn their own houses down).

    Assuming people believe in the state as a reasonable method of organizing communities, and assuming they want the state ordered according to liberal political philosophy, which talk of rights implies, I think they’re stuck with a need for a system of public education which is free to its immediate consumers (that is, the students). Indeed, one might think it ought to be compulsory up to a point. So it is not surprising that this is what we observe in our recent past.

  • roger nowosielski

    There’s a bit of a dialectic in here. On the one hand, we want our communities replicated; on the other, we want them altered.

    Can’t have one without the other, you think?

  • Anarcissie

    More succinctly, a community which does not replicate itself physically and culturally in the persons of its constituents ceases to exist.

    However you work that into your rights system, if at all, it’s just a plain, obvious, inescapable fact.

  • roger nowosielski

    I’m re-posting a comment by Anarcissie from another thread, #115. Parts of it are pertinent to this discussion:

    The basic thing that disturbs me about Krugman and company is their apparent belief that money does not and should not represent anything. Therefore, it doesn’t matter how much money you print or how big your debts are — it’s all meaningless. I intuit that many of the easy money folks have contempt for those who save money or have currency-denominated investments or are stuck on fixed incomes. We all know what kind of people they are: (1) poor; (2) stingy; (3) anal; (4) lower-middle-class (or worse). Ugh! Not sexy! But maybe I’m wrong about that; doesn’t matter.

    So anyway, for instance, reducing the interest rates on huge debts may seem like the equivalent of reducing the principal, but it really isn’t. Sooner or later that principal has to be paid, or it’s funny money. If someone did labor for it, and it just vanishes or is significantly diluted, they’ve been robbed of a part of their lives. At least in the framework of money, labor, capitalism, and so on.

    There are large debts that shouldn’t exist, of course, like the famous student debt. If we bring children into the world, which is necessary to replicate and continue our community, we are obliged to fit them for life, which for most people in the current insanely bureaucratized arrangements of our social order means having a college degree, however meaningless that degree may be. Therefore, there should be at least public (state-funded and operated) universities with free tuition, as there were in many places like New York City and California until the 1970s. But I digress.

    There’s was a recent discussion on Naked Capitalism which I entered with a hint of my own theories about money. I think it was posted on 5/24 so you might be able to find it in spite of the busyness of that blog.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    But if you mean everyone should have the opportunity to actually attend college, I disagree — strongly.

    Not everyone is qualified, and the high rates of dropouts as well as the large numbers of college “students” assigned to remedial reading and writing courses are evidence of that point.

    A college education is not, and should not be a universal “right.” Neither the unqualified student nor society gain from his or her admission to college.

    You know, the same could have and probably was said in opposition to the idea of free K-12 education being declared a right way back when.

    The thing is, there’s so much more to learn now than there was even 40 years ago. If we want to remain competitive as a nation, we have to be willing to pay for having a highly educated workforce. Chris’ #61 is spot on.

    There’s another way to look at this, too – generally speaking, the more intelligent the mammal, the longer the adolescent period of that mammal. This holds true of most mammals, including elephants, dolphins, apes…and humans. If seen in this light, a longer period of education and learning could be part of an increase in human adolescence in our continuing evolution. Of course many would scoff at the idea…but I still think it may be something to consider.

  • Baronius

    Igor –

    “The young people they educated with their tax money have gone on to build all the great industries in America.”

    Trite, false, and irrelevant to the conversation.

  • Modern countries need educated workforces and modern societies need educated citizens, even for people who may be performing comparatively low skilled work.

    Given that and the high unemployment rates in the USA, keeping people in full time education until at least the age of majority doesn’t seem like a bad idea!

  • Clavos

    …But everyone should have the opportunity…

    If by that you mean everyone should have the opportunity to aspire to go to college, I agree.

    But if you mean everyone should have the opportunity to actually attend college, I disagree — strongly.

    Not everyone is qualified, and the high rates of dropouts as well as the large numbers of college “students” assigned to remedial reading and writing courses are evidence of that point.

    A college education is not, and should not be a universal “right.” Neither the unqualified student nor society gain from his or her admission to college.

    Someone upthread pointed out that education in America is compulsory, which is true, but its extent varies from state to state; with the upper limit ranging from 14 years of age to 18, but no state mandates post-secondary education, nor should they.

  • Zingzing

    Higher education is one of the few things we’ve got going for this country. Many, maybe most, of the absolute best universities in this world are here. You have to prove you are worthy, as Kyle points out. But it’s not an indoctrination, as Cindy says. But everyone should have the opportunity, as Roger says…

  • Igor

    Well, Baronius and Kyle have proven one thing at least: they are not as smart as their grandfathers and grandmothers were, thus supporting the numerous commentors who claim that Americans are getting dumber.

    60 years ago citizens knew that the best investment society could make was in the education of our young people. All the great benefits of modern American society proceeded from that knowledge. The young people they educated with their tax money have gone on to build all the great industries in America. In fact, you can’t look anyplace in the American landscape of success and not see people trained at the great universities financed by the foresight of Great American Taxpayers.

    In fact the taxpayers investment in students has paid off with greater reliability and greater rewards than any of our taxpayer investments in business.

    So now, when someone comes along and says we should cut student support and re-direct that money to tax cuts for business and the rich, it looks like a plain attempt at robbery. By a bunch of johnny-come-lately greedy crooks. And they’re nitwits on top of it all, since they can’t recognize a good investment when they see one.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Speaking of bulbous whore’s breasts….

  • Clavos

    Nuthin’ wrong with bulbous whore’s breasts…

  • Igor

    @34-Zing: Good point. Like Duke, Stanford has such a powerful endowment that no student would ever have to pay tuition again to go to Stanford. Sometimes I think that they just extract tribute from their most successful alumni to keep them humble.

    Stanford assiduously recruits unlikely and low-rated students.

    The fact is, that the most successful people, the greatest contributors to societies welfare, come from the least among us. Furthermore, all the experts and all the managers and all the bigshots are rotten at predicting who will contribute and who will not. And that is why education MUST be democratised and NOT restricted to the sprat of the over-achievers.

    If the founders didn’t include education as an ‘enumerated’ right it is simply because they couldn’t foresee, in their wildest imagining, the incredible wealth that the USA would be capable of producing.

    There is no better, no higher use for our wealth, than bestowing the full benefits of education upon every one of our citizens.

    Far better to do that than to feed the vanity of Bogus Bonus Bosses who do nothing more than make persistent demands to get their funds for bigger houses, faster speedboats and more bulbous whores breasts.

  • roger nowosielski

    The class of the scribes, or the priests, as the case may be, have always served that purpose, Clavos.

  • Clavos

    Thus far, he writes and thinks as one of the guardians of the gate.

    No idea what you mean by that, Roger, but I do believe the gates need guarding more than ever these days. If there weren’t guardians at the gates, the barbarians would have taken over the entire world by now.

    Oh, wait…

  • roger nowosielski

    Any liberal arts curriculum that fails to include (and take seriously) the writings of Marx and the post-modernists, not to mention literary criticism, is not worthy of its name. And this is especially egregious insofar as the disciplines of political philosophy, social theory and history are concerned — especially in post-graduate programs. So if Kyle hadn’t been exposed to those studies, it only testifies to the quality of liberal education at Duke. And if he had, yet decided to pay them no mind, it only bespeaks of his inbuilt bias.

    Thus far, he writes and thinks as one of the guardians of the gate.

  • Baronius

    Grove City College doesn’t accept federal money after a big court case in the 1980’s. I know of a couple of small Catholic colleges (Thomas Aquinas College and Christendom College) that don’t take federal money either. If you check, I’m sure you can find other small, fully-accredited religious schools of other denominations who follow the same policy.

  • Clavos

    …private universities don’t accept public funds.

    Actually, nearly all do these days, either directly or indirectly, and such use of federal monies gives the feds the authority to dictate to them on a number of issues.

    I’ve mentioned before in these threads the only school I’m personally aware of that rigorously makes sure no government funds enter its campus — to the point of having students return any government funds or government-subsidized loans, which it the replaces with funds from its endowment. They literally make sure that there is no way the gummint can tell them what to do — period. It’s Hillsdale College in Hillsdale MI. It was founded in 1844 as a Baptist school, but long ago severed its relationship with the Baptists for the same reasons of independence.

    As I said, it’s the ONLY one like that I know of, as even schools like Duke allow their students to have government guaranteed loans, which makes the school subject to federal regulation and interference.

  • Zingzing

    Well, I’ll be damned. That’s (gov’t aid grants) more than I thought it would be. Still, it’s a small portion of the budget. As for Foucault, I was just pointing out that you seem to think that education does nothing but further cage the human mind… Or it just adds another institutional layer to that cage. I think that education, especially at a very, very good school such as duke, is one of the best ways to free your mind and self from the illusionary shackles that society tries to place on you. I find it hard to believe that you would rather that students not be taught at duke… There’s something a little harsh and unyielding in your stance. Baby and bathwater kind of thing.

  • Zing,

    Re Foucault: I am not sure what you are reacting to. You don’t have to agree with me. Roger was simply alluding to a respect for Foucault.

    I was merely trying to explain that when I say what I say about indoctrination it is neither empty nor merely emotional, but rather it is a well-considered and carefully analyzed position I am expressing. I feared that my emotional tone would make my statements appear to be mere casual and ill-considered rants. And that is why I felt the need to explain them. I wanted you to be able to respond based on knowing my position rather than guessing what it is. That’s all.

  • Igor

    @43-Cindy is the conclusive argument for freedom of education.

    So, then what “right” has a government to take public lands and build public institutions (at my expense) then deny me the “right” to access them?

    You can’t tax the peasants to send the sons of the rulers to exclusive schools. That is Feudalism.

    Since government has taken on the privilege of taxing all for the benefit of a few, every institution must be democratised.

  • Zing,

    Here is my thinking: if the gov’t gives a student a grant (taxpayer money) which is used to pay for college, then that college is being subsidized. I used the information here to arrive at an estimate of approximately 11.6 million dollars in funding at Duke comes from government (state and local) grants in the form of student aid.

  • Zingzing

    Hrm. Point taken on the land grant thing. And I suppose there are gov’t education grants for private education, although a vast majority of these are subsidized loans rather than a case of the gov’t outright giving money for students to use at private institutions, especially ones like duke. Either way, I’m pretty sure it would be pretty difficult to trace much of kyle’s salary to tax payer money.

  • Zingzing

    Cindy (38), private universities don’t accept public funds. Duke is a need blind admissions school, meaning that it accepts students regardless of their ability to pay. If the student cannot pay, The institution’s endowment pays for the student. But is is possible that some who are deemed able to pay actually cannot and have to take out some loans (which may or may not actually make your tax payer money a profit), I don’t really know much about gov’t education grants and private schools. Seems kinda contradictory.

    As for Foucault, where did you first hear about him? And if you ran across him totally independently, where do you think a majority of people run across him? That Shawn rider character in particular seems to be a bit academic. And then Roger calls him (foucault, I assume) “the master”? Who is this authority, this master, this power you bow down to? But really I don’t think Foucault is saying anything that surprising. It’s something that’s been said myriad times in myriad ways. It’s almost ingrained in our collective consciousness that we should not quite trust everything ingrained in our collective consciousness. And an education is just about the best way to develop the ability to see past what the “powers” want you to see. How else does one escape it? Pure luck?

  • So, then what “right” has a government to take public lands and build public institutions (at my expense) then deny me the “right” to access them?

  • Another point is that land-grant colleges and universities (which include Cornell and MIT, though they are private) were created from what should be called the “public commons” or that which is owned by everyone.

  • A blue collar worker who could not afford to send children to college, still has to pay taxes which subsidize those with more money and are able to send children to college. Thus, we have those with the less subsidizing those with more.


    Do you not expect it is your right to be able to have access to what you help pay for? What if we kept collecting taxes from you and then told you we won’t let you in the library or on the roadway?

  • We have such a thing as compulsory education in this country. Education is not a right- it has the status of law.

  • roger nowosielski

    Citing from the master, huh, Cindy?

    Good for you.

  • Zing,

    A thought. I am pretty sure that students attending Duke are granted student aid as they are at any other college or university. This means that Duke, is partly funded by tax money.

    Also, what I meant by indoctrinated values applies to all mainstream institutions. If you want to know what I mean by that, you could have a look at Foucault’s lectures/writings on Truth, Power, Knowledge.

    But here is a small quote that I hope makes you understand that my comments about indoctrination are seriously intended and have a basis in my understanding of how the world works. Here goes:

    Michel Foucault: Truth and Power – by Shawn Rider

    Each society creates a “regime of truth” according to its beliefs, values, and mores. Foucault identifies the creation of truth in contemporary western society with five traits: the centering of truth on scientific discourse, accountability of truth to economic and political forces, the “diffusion and consumption” of truth via societal apparatuses, the control of the distribution of truth by “political and economic apparatuses,” and the fact that it is “the issue of a whole political debate and social confrontation.” Individuals would do well to recognize that ultimate truth, “Truth,” is the construct of the political and economic forces that command the majority of the power within the societal web. There is no truly universal truth at all; therefore, the intellectual cannot convey universal truth. The intellectual must specialize, specify, so that he/she can be connected to one of the truth-generating apparatuses of the society. As Foucault explains it:

    ‘Truth’ is to be understood as a system of ordered procedures for the production, regulation, distribution, circulation and operation of statements.

    ‘Truth’ is linked in a circular relation with systems of power which produce and sustain it, and to effects of power which it induces and which extend it. A ‘regime’ of truth.

  • roger nowosielski

    “The claim that education, a college education, is a right confuses a right with an entitlement…”

    Kyle has a point here, somewhat, though the phrasing may not be most fortunate. Merit would be a better term.

    But what has this got to do with the escalated tuition costs, which virtually deny accessibility of good college education to those of low socio-economic status (unless they plunge themselves into life-long debt)?

    The climate has definitely changed, and Kyle’s lack of awareness of the change, that not so long ago college education was much more accessible and “democratic,” sticks as a sore thumb.

  • cindy

    Thank you for your correction Zing. And I agree with you Glenn. Thanks for reminding me of that. I do get carried away. I get frustrated because I see the world as a hopeless place. The people in it have very little chance of seeing anything they don’t already believe. I plan as soon as possible to use my free time to try relieve suffering one on one instead of talking to people about politics.

    I’m glad you like the argument though, Glenn. Stilll, imo it has little chance with Kyle, though, regardless of my approach.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy –

    I imagine that those who are demanding their right to education would like education to be accessable to all and not made more and more inaccessible by a system that clearly functions against them and in favor of those with more wealth. I imagine that they are trying to level what they see as an unfair playing field.
    They want the “right” to an education because they understand that the alternative is to become victims of the system. It is as if they are saying, “If you want a system this unfair to those without wealth, and so biased toward the wealthy, that the wealth and income disparity in your system will sever us from being able to acquire even the basic tools to even allow us access to try and create enough wealth to be comfortable and maybe even give us access to the “American Dream” (what they have been promised), then we want the access to those tools to be a right!”

    Cindy, that was brilliantly said – I’ve never heard a better argument for education for all, and IMO any intelligent person should be in wholehearted agreement with you. But the problem lay with your next paragraph:

    That you don’t understand that makes me scared that you are any sort of “educator”. It is people with your failure to question the sytem and think independently that let’s you act like an unquestioning tool for the powerful and privileged. You are certainly not giving anyone any kind of education, but are an agent of indoctrination in service to the clearly failed system in place.

    With that paragraph you lost any chance you had in convincing your target – in this case, Kyle Scott. It didn’t matter how right you were, for the moment he sees those accusations, there’s nothing you could ever say that would bring him around to agreement with you.

    Remember when you and Roger argued against me on the matter of anarchistic government? Roger, of course, insulted me many, many times…but you did not. And it was because of your patience and courtesy that I researched the subject more deeply…and found out that you were right.

    I suggest that in the future, keep your passionate and intelligent arguments on the issues, but try not to unload on your targets in a way that they would see as insulting, for as soon as you do so, you lose any chance you ever had of converting them to your point of view.

  • Zingzing

    Cindy (#26 and 27), duke’s a private university. It has religious roots, but is non-sectarian and independent. It’s one of the best (and most heavily endowed) research universities in the world. More than half of the undergraduate student body is minorities.

    If you want to pick on higher education, fine (but really?), but duke probably is one of the absolute worst targets you could find. And I fucking hate duke with a passion (but not because of their academics).

  • I hear you.

  • roger nowosielski

    Thanks but no thanks. Don’t need any more aggravations. Besides, I’m working out my own thoughts, which is more important than to be responding to the same ole stale arguments.

  • When I have frustration in my life (like my mom is irritating the hell out of me, as an example), it always helps to vent by focusing on something worthwhile.

    So, get an irritating mother, is my advice. It will increase your desire to respond to plenty of things you would not ordinarily care to respond to. 😉

  • Hiya Roger. I am happy to see you there.

  • roger nowosielski

    Was referring to your #25.

  • roger nowosielski

    Cool post, Cindy. You’re a “better man” that I am. I just wasn’t going to spend that much time and energy to unpack all the hidden premises underling Kyle’s “argument.” No doubt, he’d surely regard any such exposition either superfluous or not germane enough to the point of view he was peddling.

  • I am sure you do not realize that your own salary is very very likely subsidized by the government.

    (Is that okay with you or will you give some of your pay back?)

  • You are both brainwashed and are brainwashing others. I wouldn’t give a fig to you for your claimed teaching efforts. In my book you should be fired and stop wasting my taxpayer money.

  • “To say that everyone has a right to an education because it will help them move up the socioeconomic ladder is political pandering.”

    The socioeconomic “ladder”, read the tremendous disparity in wealth between people, is a product of the system of government in place, which exists to serve those in power. It privileges some over others.

    What good is a “right” given to me by my oppressor? I have a birthright to self determination which has been confounded by the creation of a system in which decisions are made for me and not by me. I have no choice about this and no avenue to object.

    I imagine that those who are demanding their right to education would like education to be accessable to all and not made more and more inaccessible by a system that clearly functions against them and in favor of those with more wealth. I imagine that they are trying to level what they see as an unfair playing field.
    They want the “right” to an education because they understand that the alternative is to become victims of the system. It is as if they are saying, “If you want a system this unfair to those without wealth, and so biased toward the wealthy, that the wealth and income disparity in your system will sever us from being able to acquire even the basic tools to even allow us access to try and create enough wealth to be comfortable and maybe even give us access to the “American Dream” (what they have been promised), then we want the access to those tools to be a right!”

    That you don’t understand that makes me scared that you are any sort of “educator”. It is people with your failure to question the sytem and think independently that let’s you act like an unquestioning tool for the powerful and privileged. You are certainly not giving anyone any kind of education, but are an agent of indoctrination in service to the clearly failed system in place.

    “A right is anything that is constituent to my being. Reasoning, communicating, moving around, these are rights. I should be able to think and say what I want so long as it does not harm another. I don’t need a government to give me the capacity of speech or thought, but I do need the government to protect me from some brute who doesn’t think I should be able to think or speak freely.”

    Perhaps the brutes that we need protection from are those who would seek to control the culture in their own interests by imposing rules upon us, which we have no avenue of personal participation in creating. Perhaps the access to the very tools of success in this system, ought not be viewed as “entitlements”.

    It is our birthright to determine what sort of system we want. You prefer to teach students to be a slave to the system that is.

  • Igor

    Finance accounts for 40% of US industry profits, these days. I guess that’s where our tax dollars are going.

  • I agree with Igor. Finance is becoming too pervasive. We need more students to study Municipal, SEC Accounting, Cost Accounting and Governmental Accounting. We need to place a greater emphasis on Financial, Operational, Regulatory and IT auditing to root out core problems in government and industry or it’ll be too late. Finance should get out of the business of easy money and emphasize such things as infrastructure, as was done historically in the discipline. Finance should get more into Personal Financial Planning and the actuarial side of accounting/finance. Then, pensions would be better protected.

    Above all, we need to define derivative instruments in the Uniform Commercial Code, as we did with checks and drafts.

  • roger nowosielski

    I suspect there is a reason you haven’t addressed some of the relevant aspects. By invoking the question of whether education is a right, you have conveniently diverted the discussion of a far thornier issue, the unprecedented rise in tuition costs and predatory banking practices.

    Nice job.

  • You’re right Roger N. I should have addressed every relevant aspect of the education debate. Sorry for ever thinking I could only focus on a small sliver of it in ~700 words. Good job addressing only what you wanted to and not the substance of my argument. And yes, calling me green is the, “I’m older than you so I know better” argument.

  • Igor

    The colleges and universities seem to have become the tools of the Finance Industry, an industry that contributes little but extracts much from our society. Will finance be the parasite that dooms American society?

  • roger nowosielski

    The very fact, Kyle, you’re addressing your “point” in the context of obscene rise in tuition costs, that you seem to approve of situation, that you make no mention of the predatory practices of banks and government in administering the student loans — that you consider such matters not germane enough to the discussion — warrants nothing better than a “choppy” response. And if there are important policy decisions that are implicated in or supposedly follow from your rather one-dimensional treatment of the topic, you have yet to say what they are.Y

    And this isn’t an argument from “I’m older than you so I know better.” You’re just green.

  • You assume that going to college means you are getting an education rather than just a degree. I make no such assumptions and there is evidence to support the claim with students studying less and grade inflation on the rise. But you are right about an educated society being one that is more competitive, as I posited in the article as well. But I am not sure how that transforms it from a need to a right, or something desirable into a right. I need a car to get to work, should the government buy me one, is it my right to have a public transportation system? I desire good food, should the government subsidize my eating habits? These needs and desires do not fall within my definition of rights, nor any that definition that I am willing to accept. This, as I wrote, doesn’t mean the government shouldn’t or can’t play a role in the education system, but only it is not a right, it is a policy choice.

  • There is such a thing as compulsory education. After the basic education requirement, the rest depends upon whether or not a student goes to college or enters a trade. A strong public school system is just asimportant as a top functioning library system. Politicians and voters agree on the need for higher education in order to remain competitive internationally. This convergence of strategic constituencies is loosely in synchronization with the Law of Competitive Advantage. Thousands of professional physicians, lawyers, accountants, engineers, actuaries and others will be retiring in record numbers. Who will replace them and how will this new cadre of budding professionals be educated?

  • Igor. Yes, I too can think of many NO RIGHTS as you title them. Let me know of a book, article, etc. that discusses the relevant aspects of everything and I’ll follow it up with one of my all encompassing treatises. Until, then, judge on the merits.

    Feel free to write your own post, or, if you are going to throw around personal insults, do it in your full name.

  • Roger N.–I’m not sure of the point you are trying to make or how mine is immature. (I always enjoy the, “I’m old so I know more” critique.) The post was about education and rights, not about the evolution of education, if that is what the choppy response was supposed to point to.

    The only point where you address the argument is in the first paragraph so I’ll respond to what’s there. Not a revelation–no suggestion that it is, only that its worth writing about because it’s a point of view that’s not penned frequently. Not a significant point–that can only be true if you don’t appreciate the stakes of the game. Defining rights and what ought to be open to debate and what should be guaranteed is quite significant to anyone concerned about reasonable policy and discourse.

  • Glenn Contrarian


    On your wish that someone would say that we can’t improve education by throwing money at it, do you not realize that you get what you pay for? And if you somehow think that you’re going to solve a school’s problems by taking money away from it, you’re living in a fantasy land.

    41% of ALL teachers in Texas are moonlighting…which means they’re not doing anything after school hours like grading tests or making lesson plans or talking to students in trouble. Do you REALLY think that you’re paying teachers in Texas too much? Or do you think they’re paying them anywhere close to enough, since over two-fifths of them have to have second jobs just to make ends meet?

    Like anything else in life, you get what you pay for. You can’t have a Cadillac if you’re not willing to pay for it. You can’t have a really nice house if you’re not willing to pay for it. And you’re not willing to pay what’s needed for our teachers to not have to take second jobs just to make ends meet, then you’re NOT willing to pay for a quality education for our kids.

  • roger nowosielski

    If Kyle’s main point is that the “right to education” is being used as a political football, hardly anyone would disagree; but then again, it’s not any kind of revelation and hardly a significant point.

    Kyle’s professorship, or tenure, as the case may be, has got to be of a rather recent vintage, it’s fairly safe to assume. Had he gone through through the grind in the sixties, I’m willing to bet his views on the subject would have been considerable more mature. Meanwhile, what’s lost in the shuffle is the quality of graduate and undergraduate education available even at city colleges levels, not to mention accessibility in terms of reasonable tuition costs, availability of scholarships, the GI Bill — all of the above. What’s also lost in the shuffle is the value we used to attach back then to good old fashioned liberal arts education, as opposed to vocational studies or any vocational training which was supposed to land you a job. Things have surely changed, and Kyle, having missed on the experience, appears totally unaware of these dimensions. Not a very enlightening or penetrating article considering it has been penned by an instructor in political philosophy.

    So yes, Clavos should know better.

  • It’s one thing to make a good basic education accessible, that’s in the interest of society and the nation; it’s yet another to declare it as a “right,” and insist that the government (i.e. the taxpayers) must pay for it and everyone must avail themselves of it.

    Among the most crucial of the enumerated rights is the right to a fair trial. It’s not a right most of us will ever need to avail ourselves of. But does that mean we shouldn’t have it?

    Nobody’s suggesting that we should forcibly educate Knuckles McThicko to bachelor’s degree level. But should Knuckles decide that it’s something he wants to pursue, he should have the opportunity to at least try.

  • Clavos

    @ Igor #8:

    Except for the first item in your list there are no such “rights.” Lack of those “rights” does not in any way imply prohibition of the activities you list.

    The “idiocy” here is in your lack of logic.

  • Clavos

    It’s one thing to make a good basic education accessible, that’s in the interest of society and the nation; it’s yet another to declare it as a “right,” and insist that the government (i.e. the taxpayers) must pay for it and everyone must avail themselves of it.

    For years, there has been an over-the-top trend in this country to proclaim everything desirable, no matter how absurd, as a “right.”

    Now, even animals have “rights”…


  • One of the rights the Founders were pretty damn clear about is the pursuit of happiness. (Note: not the right to be happy, but the right to go looking for it.)

    And since our society is currently set up in such a way that success in life depends a great deal on one’s quality of schooling, I think we ought to be able to reasonably agree that it is our responsibility, as guarantors of that right, to ensure that everyone has access to at least a good basic education.

  • Igor

    Right? Is that ALL that counts? In spite of the Ninth amendment?

    -NO right to education : stop offering it free

    -NO right to having a million dollars : take it away

    -NO right to “Too Big To Fail” : stop doing it

    -NO right to take away someones house : stop bank repossessions

    -NO right to a million dollar yacht : take it away

    Hey, there are many “NO right” situations I can think of. I bet you can too.

    What idiocy you offer, Kyle. And that goes for your lapdog Clavos, too!

  • In neither place is right clearly defined, only characterized or itemized.

    I think that is part of the rationale behind the Ninth. The Framers knew that there were many “natural rights”, most of which were blindingly obvious to anybody with a couple of functional connected brain cells and shouldn’t need to be listed, and/or were protected by other constitutional clauses.

    A common theme in the writings and speeches of the FFs is a wariness of government. The general feeling was that the inclination of people in a position of power was to expand that power to its maximum possible limit. They recognised that future generations would come to regard certain things as rights, things they couldn’t anticipate. What they could anticipate was that some arseholes would try to deny them on the grounds that they weren’t constitutionally protected.

  • Baronius

    Let’s make distinctions between basic education and advanced education, and between human rights and civil rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights addresses basic education. As Dread notes, it specifically doesn’t recognize the universal right to higher education. It says that such education shall be “generally” available. In other words, it’s not a human right, but it’s a legitimate aspiration.

    It’s up to each country to decide what it holds to be a civil right. The US can declare that higher education is a civil right if it wants to.

    Those distinctions having been made, I agree with the gist of this article.

  • smartalek

    Just once, I’d like to see someone who says anything like,

    Our —— system is a serious issue that needs to be addressed, and throwing money at it is not the answer

    with regard to education, medicine, justice, or any of those other goo-goo societal functions, say the same with regard to the military.
    What is it, I wonder, that makes the defense of the nation, and its material and other interests, so much more amenable to being answered by having money thrown at them?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    It’s nice to think of education as a right. In fact, most liberals feel that access to a quality basic education should be a right. But I hold myself to be a contrarian, and education is one area where I strongly disagree with my fellow liberals.

    My youngest son did not excel in school here stateside – slightly below average (it’s a long story, and ADD plays a central role). When we found out how many of his friends were carrying guns to school each day, and how even his best friend was turning out to be a dealer, we took him to someplace where we knew that school was stricter, and the kids valued education much more – the Philippines.

    He graduated from high school in Manila this past April, and he learned a few lessons along the way, such as (1) most schools in this world actually do NOT allow students to go to the next grade if they fail, (2) the English he was learning in that really nice school in Washington state was NOT up to the standards of a school in a third-world nation (he almost failed English there), and (3) by his own admission, whereas most of his fellow students stateside were really happy to get an 85%, the students in Manila sometimes cried if they got less than a 90%.

    Now my son is a good kid – he really is. Yes, my opinion is quite biased, but even at the age of 17 has never once raised his voice to me, never slammed the door in my face, never refused to do what I told him to do. He is always respectful to his elders and particularly to women. He has a real sense of honor. He is a good kid, and to keep him that way, I had to get him out of America.

    And that’s the real shame. A third-world nation is providing better basic education than does the richest nation in human history. In fact, when it nears graduation time, one sees scores of banners in every neighborhood congratulating this or that graduating class, or this or that valedictorian or cum laude student, or a group that passed a particular professional certification. When was the last time we saw such enthusiasm for education in America?

    Next month he begins college in the Philippines. Stateside universities are world-class and make no mistake, but our K-12 system is failing our nation.

    I blame the conservatives and the Republicans for so many of America’s ills. One of the things they’ve done to tear this nation down is to slash K-12 education funding, vilify the teachers, and pay them FAR less than they’re worth. BUT I hold my fellow liberals as even more culpable in our K-12 failures, for we have set the bars too low, we’ve allowed the mediocre to pass at the same rate as the outstanding, we’ve engendered an “I’m OK, you’re OK” atmosphere, and the students wouldn’t know an academic challenge if it slapped them in the face.

    The failure of our K-12 system is the single biggest factor in my belief that America is in decline, and I believe that the said decline is probably irreversible. Oh, it might be a few decades yet before we begin to accept that the torch has passed elsewhere, that we no longer have any right to call ourselves first among equals, that “American exceptionalism” is and always has been a myth. But the great wheel turns.

    I did my part to serve my country, but there comes a time when a man must make a choice whether to keep plugging an ever-increasing number of leaks in the boat, or to get the wife and kids to the lifeboat. Sure, the lifeboat’s a lot smaller with far fewer amenities, but it’s easier for one’s family to breathe on top of the waves than beneath them.

  • Thank you for the kind remarks and encouragement. It is needed as I wait during the calm before the storm as I anticipate some unsupportive comments.

    Clavos, thank you for sharing your story.

    Dreadful, I agree with your reading of Amendment IX (and X), and I applaud the amendments for their humility, and Univ. Dec. of Human Rights, but I don’t defer to either. In neither place is right clearly defined, only characterized or itemized. I am not convinced that education is a right, even if merit based. Education is desirable and should be pursued, and there is merit to the idea that the government should get involved when discrimination occurs, but I still don’t think that it reaches the level of a right.

  • Although education is not enumerated as a right in that thar Bill of them, there is that pesky Ninth Amendment which says that just because the Constitution doesn’t specifically state something as a right, it doesn’t mean the people don’t have it.

    The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not so circumspect. Article 26 specifically states that everyone has a right to a basic education. While it doesn’t go so far as to include higher education, it does say that it “shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit”.

    I think part of the concern here is that this is not, in the US, happening.

    I’m with Clavos though in that the American system, in which anyone who can grunt can get into college, doesn’t particularly serve anyone well by this state of affairs. Remedial English and mathematics courses, for example, don’t belong on a college campus because the people who need them manifestly aren’t ready for college. And they take scarce resources away from other areas in which they could be used.

  • Clavos

    Excellent essay, Kyle!

    All of yours are trenchant and very well written, but your premise here is not only spot on, it’s of vital importance if we are ever to improve our educational system to a level which will genuinely benefit all of our population.

    My mother in law passed away some years ago. She, like you, taught at college level (in her case, English, at Auburn). She was German born, a brilliant thinker and an enthusiastic, dedicated and able teacher. But she was appalled at the way our “everybody has the right to an education” centered system processed and promoted students who were neither capable nor educated well enough to have reached her classrooms. She told me of the system in her homeland, in which students are continually observed and measured as they pass through the system, and who, based on their skill levels and other criteria, are steered to either university or technical/craft institutions during their adolescence. Though still at least nominally based on the notion that everyone has the right to an education, it seems far better able to serve the needs of both students and society than our own, which appears to serve neither.

    I suspect this essay will likely generate some lively discussion.

    Kudos, Professor!