In America the debate is over how to deliver universal education to all American youth, not whether it should be done. There is some argument about what the content of that education should be – evolution vs. intelligent design, for example – but very little disagreement over whether education should be a public right.
In fact, it’s more than a right – education is currently compulsory. Perhaps there ought to be more discussion about this aspect of our system. What is the point of trying to pour knowledge into children who don’t want to learn?
Any manager knows that the first 20% of effort achieves 80% of the result; the converse is that reaching the remainder of a lofty goal such as “No Child Left Behind” is that an enormous amount of resources are spent on increasingly futile objectives.
In my youth children read about Honest Abe Lincoln and how his burning desire to educate himself kept him up at night studying by fire light after putting in a 19th century day’s worth of hard labor. How many American students are that dedicated?
Quite a few, actually – once the free, required education of high school is left behind and the burden of paying for additional knowledge is put on students’ – and their parents’ – shoulders. In other words, only once education is defined as a privilege does it become valuable and worth struggling for.
As usual, Americans fail to understand how good they have it. In Thailand – and many other countries, including our own little train wreck in Iraq – education is under violent attack from Muslim terrorist. Since 2004, according to the BBC:
More than 200 schools have been torched and 77 teachers killed, according to education officials
On Monday, two female primary school teachers were shot dead in front of their students, and another teacher was killed in an ambush.
In response, hundreds of schools closed their doors this week, with staff demanding better security from the authorities.
In 2005, the BBC said:
The situation has grown so bad that the Thai government last week offered to help teachers buy handguns and provide bullet-proof vests for those who requested them.
Education has become a privilege in Thailand, one that’s increasingly dangerous to pursue. Whether the Thai people will allow themselves to be terrorized back into ignorance is a very important question, one that has implications world-wide.
By way of explanation the BBC says:
Muslim separatists are accused of targeting schools and Buddhist monks because they are seen as symbols of the state.
That last, the “symbols of the state” business, does not ring true. True, Muslims are against the Thai government. But their hatred runs much deeper than that, down to the very core of what keeps people from capitulating and submitting to their “religion of peace”.
That most essential elements of human freedom, the one that Muslims hate above all others, are knowledge and logic. That is what the murders of educators in Thailand, Afghanistan, and Iraq are really about – the termination of widespread learning and thereby the way of life that equips people with the ability to reject the fallacy of Islam.
That unfriendly governments might be de-stabilized is a happy by-product of the real objective. Anyone who believes that the carnage and body count among the world’s educators is accidental is fooling themselves – ending the practice of education is a primary objective of Islam.
As one of the fundamental pillars of the modern world it is imperative that education be given the priority and protection it deserves. Remove knowledge and the entire superstructure that we’ve built on top of it will collapse.
Clearly that cannot be allowed to happen. But how to prevent it when 1 terrorist can destroy the dreams of a better life for hundred or thousands of people?
I have no answer for that. But if a high enough value is placed on education people of all countries can ensure that it continues to take place despite the risks. One potential side-effect is that Americans may even learn to value education enough to provide it to their children.