Any civilized nation must provide a free, quality education. I believe that should go all the way to the 16th grade, to a bachelor's degree.
Here is the nub: to what point should an education be mandatory? If one does not want to be educated, to what extent should one be forced?
Here in California it's mandatory to attend school -- or an equivalent, such as home schooling -- between the ages of 6 and 18, unless one has reached the age of 16 and has "graduated from high school or passed the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE) and obtained parental permission to leave." (California Education Code)
All states follow roughly the same practices, though most end mandatory attendance at 16. Colorado was late to the party, apparently having no law concerning mandatory school attendance until 2006.
A quick look at laws in Europe and Asia confirm that all countries have compulsory education from roughly 5-7 until 14-18, corresponding to something like our high-school level. Mexico is a low-end example, requiring schooling only through the 9th grade, or the end of junior high.
Many countries around the world don't charge university tuition. Most western European countries have tuition-free university education. Britain is an exception, charging up to $14,500 at public universities. Germany now charges a 1000 euro entrance fee. Australia, free until recently, is around the middle in price. Canada tuition levels are the lowest among the English-speaking countries, including the U.S.
|As institutions go, this is not as good as a school.|
I could go on, but the main point is that an education is vital to the success of the individual as well as the nation. Beyond assuring that a citizen enters adulthood with the knowledge and skills to fully participate in society, states and nations cannot insist that citizens become educated beyond what their imaginations require. Thus, those who have passed beyond the mandatory measures can opt out of further education.
That's why it's wise to make a university education free or attractively low-priced. And I'm not speaking about private universities: they're free to charge as much as they please. No, as long as we have a decent public-sector educational system, I could care less what Harvard charges.
Education as a right is so well-understood that it's non-controversial. That's good. And here is not the place to charge that Texas and Kansas, for example, have a bad habit of trying to re-write history and science curricula to suit their political and religious agendas. Let's just say that's not good, and they should rethink their practices..
(As an aside, almost all countries have some level of compulsory education, with Eastern Europe, Africa, South America, and the developing countries of Asia having somewhat shorter lengths required.)
I'm glad that education seems to be highly regarded around the globe, making it easy to consider it a basic human right. Beyond that, I can only offer that my life has been immeasurably richer for the learning I've done, and I can't imagine a point where I'm done with it. Living is learning, and I recommend it to absolutely everyone. In fact, an individual or nation's significance is in inverse proportion to its general state of ignorance.
On a personal point of observation: if there's a case to be made to require an even more robust education for American citizens, one only needs to read the comments on websites, whether blogs or mainstream media, to realize why. A mind may be a terrible thing to waste, but a wasted mind is a terrible thing to display in public.
Think before you share your thoughts, please. I'm only saying.
(thanks to the Onion)