The “right to education” is a basic human right because there is no way to enjoy other human rights without an appropriate education. The case of Brasil (Primer 1, Tomasevski, page 8), where “illiterate” people were not allowed to vote, was simply brutal. Glad to know from Catia that illiterates are no longer precluded from the right to vote. However, the existence of an education does not mean that people have the right to education. This is a very important point raised by Tomasevski.
It is crucial to point out that education is not a positive concept per se. One can educate kids to become soldiers. Education can be used to make proselitism. Recently, I found a school report (year 1943) of my father, 79, where, among other usual curricula, such history, math and so on, there were “cultura fascista” and “cultura militare”.
This makes me think also of Don Milani’s case. A priest active in Tuscany, next to Florence, in the sixties. He was in the church against the church, his basic point being (synthetically and in my floundering English 😦 , partly result of poor education 😉 ): “We tell people that we want to explain them the Gospel but if people are illiterate they cannot grasp the meaning of what we are trying to say. Therefore, to begin with we must give them an education, and a lay education, not a religious one. If we don’t care about people’s lay education first, then we are hypocritical.”
Don Milani was sourly accused and prosecuted by the church. Therefore, he was placed in a very small village, Barbiana, at the top of a mountain (Monte Giovi), inhabited by a handful of peasants. He did not give up. He created the “school of Barbiana” were he taught the peasants’ kids. The school became incredibly famous. Teachers, professors, journalists, politicians, intellectuals form all Italy went to visit his school. Don Milani put all of them among their young students and all these relevant people were not allowed to talk from a cattedra (chair) as they were used to do but they could only participate in the lessons together with the students.
In order to understand the work of Don Milani it is worthwhile to have a look to a book written by eight students of him, Letter to a Teacher, which became very famous. Incidentally and interestingly, I found this English translation in an Indian site, called Shikshantar, devoted to education and development in India. This book is a sharp accusation of a public compulsory school system conceived for rich people against poor people.
It is difficult to say if something has changed in Italian school after Don Milani’s experience. Of course, many things have changed because the context has changed. But Don Milani intended a high quality education, a practical education (in Italy education is too theoretical), an education able to give autonomy of thinking. In this sense, I’m afraid things are still worse.
These are relatively recent examples taken from a democratic western country. I believe that, “just” to set up an educational system is the small part of the job, the tough part is to make the educational system able to give knowledge and skills but also free thinking and autonomy.
Existing education is so often biased , so often conceived for passive being instead of human beings, that I’m quite afraid to make it compulsory. Let us make education available everywhere first, and let us improve the quality of education all over the world. Instead of making education mandatory I would make it available, free and accurately fitted to local social realities.
In my opinion, compulsory things do not work. In order to let something work it must respond to some real need of people.
Curious question posed by Karen:
Do animals have basic rights in nature?
At a first glance the question seemed to me just funny, but after some thought not that much and I discovered to have an answer: yes, I believe:
- Form an ethological point of view, animals have laws and they respect them. In a group, a young beta has the right to challenge the old alpha, when circumstances turn out to be appropriate. Competition is subject to strong rules, very seldom the looser looses his life. In any competition, the looser has the right to preserve his live.
- More generally, animals are part of humanity. We live on earth thanks to the diversity of nature. Yes, we exist also thanks to the existence of mosquitos! Animals have also “human rights” because they are important for us. Domestic animals are even more important for us, we grew together. Very interesting are the books of Temple Grandin, an autistic woman, a wonderful person, who now is a professor of animal science. I knew her reading her book: Animals in Translation.
It may sound strange to talk about animals rights after having seen the abyss between what should be done and what has been done in terms of human rights of children, all over the world. However, children and animals have this in common: they did not ask to come into this world and they cannot express their reasons among adult humans; or better said, adult humans are not able to understand the language of children and animals. To think about animal rights it helps us to see the problem in a sufficiently broad and correct perspective, perhaps.