Education: Privilege, not right by Sophina

Sophina's entry into Varsity Tutor's January 2021 scholarship contest

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Education: Privilege, not right by Sophina - January 2021 Scholarship Essay

If you asked anyone today when given this question, they would say education is a right. But if you asked someone during the American Revolutionary war, they would say education is a privilege. The biggest difference between the periods is that education is widespread and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone in this world. With the helpful invention of technology, more structured governments, and easy communication, we can’t imagine today without being able to read. Almost everyone takes it for granted. Many public schools even have high dropout rates because the students think school is a chore, not an opportunity. Our day-to-day activities rely on basic literacy and mathematical skills, so what if no one got an education? Education is a privilege, despite arguments made to make it a natural right because we could still live without education. By saying it is a right, it means humans can’t live without it. But in the 1700s, the literacy rate was only about 50%, the other half of the population managed without it.

First, let’s clarify the difference between a right and privilege. A privilege is something earned, entitled by certain circumstances. A right is an inherent entitlement from birth; you’re just supposed to have it. An example of a right would be found in one of America’s most celebrated documents; the Constitution. The founding fathers considered life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness inalienable rights granted by God that the government must protect. Do you see the word education? It wasn’t considered a right because it was unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Education was optional, certainly had its benefits, but it was a privilege. You either had to be born into a rich family, or work for it, but you could still live without it. Today, it is a constitutional right, but not necessarily a natural right. Think about the difference between the types of rights. Is natural right the same as a constitutional right?

When I was younger, reading was something I looked forward to. Education was exciting, even inspiring and I used to wake up earlier than my parents to go to school. Nowadays, teachers have a hard time even getting their students to read an assigned book. Any high school student can relate to the pain of waking up for school. The way school is perceived is forced. We are so used to the idea that education has to be given to us; we have the right to refuse since it is offered without fail. People forget that education wasn’t always available because we feel that it is obligated that the government offers it to us.

I cannot emphasize enough that education is a privilege. We have cultures around the world that refuse to educate others. The phrase “knowledge is power” has never held more true in today’s society. If education truly was a human right for everybody, then why are 14% of the population illiterate today? Maybe in developed countries such as America and the UK, receiving an education is not a struggle, but others have to fight for it. The concept of education comes from humans receiving knowledge. And even though knowledge is not necessary, it is incredibly helpful. As Nelson Mandela says, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”