by Jim Bouchard
“‘We’re here today because we believe that public higher education is not a privilege. It is a fundamental human right,’ said Meaghan LaSala, one of the students who organized the event.” ~Portland Press Herald, April, 10, 2014
That’s a quote from a protest over cuts at the University of Southern Maine. It’s a cry that’s being raised all over the country.
Public higher education is a fundamental human right?
Well- no. It’s not.
KNOCK IT OFF!
Your “fundamental,” formerly described as “inalienable” rights are those rights granted to you by God or nature- whatever you believe. The key distinguishing factor is that inalienable rights are the universally recognized rights of birth that any freedom loving person agrees are not subject to debate, approval or distribution by any other man…
…or his representative government.
Those rights are brilliantly articulated in the Declaration of Independence. These “fundamental” rights are brutally limited in their number- and amazingly limitless in their expression:
- Pursuit of happiness
Following that, laws were crafted to assure that these rights would never be infringed or restricted by a central authority, despot or tyrant. The “Bill of Rights” specifically protects these rights.
There have never been new rights constructed by our government- until recently.
Even voting rights amendments did not grant new rights. They simply asserted that those people once denied their natural rights would never be denied again. Once again- the government, which was still operating under some semblance of constitutional restraint, simply affirmed the principle of inalienable rights.
We seem to be entering the age of creating new “rights”. That’s a big problem.
First of all, education is NOT a right…at any level…
You may argue this point, but education is not a right.
We’ve agreed as a community that public education should be provided up to grade 12 and that you must attend school until age 16. All we’ve done over time is to assure that if public education is available to anyone- it’s available to everyone. Note that this applies only to “public” education.
Once you graduate high school- you’re on your own. If you really believe in freedom and inalienable rights, this is as it should be.
Notice that in a free society, your “inalienable” rights don’t impose a cost on anyone else. It really is that simple.
Your life doesn’t necessitate the deprivation of anyone else’s life. Your freedom does not infringe on the freedom of others. Your pursuit of happiness should not interfere with anyone else’s pursuit…
…and there’s the problem.
Unfortunately, the word “free” is now confused with freedom.
Beyond a “fundamental” educational level, you start adult life as a free individual. You’re free to pursue your own ambitions, explore your own talents and to trade your abilities on the open market to build the life you choose.
Your individual expression of freedom starts to get expensive.
It costs money to build and operated public colleges. If you want to choose your pursuit- to study whatever makes you happy, there is a cost.
How can you justify the position that your pursuit is any more worthy than anyone else’s?
Why should the resources of any other free person be confiscated to finance your individual pursuit of happiness?
Again- as a community we’ve decided to invest in programs that benefit the community at large. The Constitution allows that the States and the People are free to make those choices.
Usually, the community invests in higher education that will directly benefit the people in that community. That’s why so many public colleges and universities were created to train teachers, engineers, agriculturalists, nurses and other vocations.
If your pursuit of happiness works in harmony with the needs of the community, you have access to subsidized education. Take full advantage.
If your pursuit of happiness is a little more esoteric, well…it is, after all, your pursuit.
Once you abdicate financial responsibility for your pursuit to the public- or to the government, you also abdicate your freedom of choice. If higher education is a right- and that right comes at a cost.
Who grants the RIGHT to higher education?
The entity providing the means of support dictates the terms. If the government grants you the right to higher education, then the government dictates what you should study.
Is that really what you’re after?
Do you have a RIGHT to fully subsidized higher education?
No more than I have a right to publicly subsidized guitar lessons. Why is my pursuit of happiness any less worthy than yours?
Be careful. Answer that question honestly and you’ll meet the dark and dangerous specter that struck fear in the hearts of our founders.
Jim Bouchard is a speaker and author of THINK Like a BLACK BELT. Learn more about Jim at ThatBlackBeltGuy.com…
Photo courtesy of StockImages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net