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The Right to Read and Write

Jeff Campbell

Posted on August 19, 2018 08:33

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Do our children have the basic right to an education that teaches them to read and write at a minimum level?

There is a lot of talk about rights these days, the right to healthcare, the right to keep and bear arms, the right to marry whomever you choose. Some are specifically protected in the Constitution and some are not.

The debate rages on regarding the wisdom and the legality of each, with plenty of gray areas debated in the halls of Congress, around the dinner table, on social media and in our court systems. Bernie Sanders argued in his campaign that we should have “free” college. Is college a right for all? The debate continues.

However, there is a question of rights when it comes to education that is on a much more fundamental level than college tuition. Do we have the right to a basic level of education that will provide a minimum ability for each person to read and write?

Recent reporting in the Washington Post goes to the heart of a child’s right to literacy. One would think that this is a stupid question, that of course every child has the right to receive an education that provides basic literacy. The answer, however, is not a simple yes.

The Detroit School system is so bad that a group of students sued the state in Federal court claiming that Michigan had violated their constitutional right to an education by failing to provide adequate resources to make effective learning possible.

The judge in the case agreed that the education system was deplorable but did not find under the Due Process Clause, that a state had to provide children a minimum level of education. In fact, the Constitution does not mention schools or education anywhere in its language.

So, does that mean there is no Constitutional right to a minimum level of education? On the surface, it may seem so, but as reported in the piece, attorneys are trying new tactics.

Attorneys for the children argue that literacy is a necessary skill to be able to fully participate in a democratic republic and that the lack of minimum education is disenfranchising that segment of the population, often minorities, and would fall under Due Process.

Another tactic is to try and equate education to marriage which was declared a fundamental right in the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision. While cases are pending, it is too soon to tell how these arguments will sway the courts one way or the other.

What is clear is that we have many issues in this country where our Federal, state and local governments are severely letting us down. Education, healthcare, housing are just a few current travesties that come to mind.

People ask the question, should our Constitution grant us specific rights to healthcare, housing or a minimum level of education? I think a better question is why our elected officials are doing such a horrible job that we need to go to the courts to fight for basic services that our economic and governmental systems should already be providing.

Jeff Campbell

Posted on August 19, 2018 08:33

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Source: ABQJournal

UNM could build adult literacy into its teacher education program

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