Education as a Basic Need

Karen Hornsby, Bowling Green State University

The claim is often made that education is a universal right. Yet rarely is support offered for this claim. Certainly there are consequentialist reasons for a society to educate its citizens. But are people entitled to an education; is education a right? In an attempt to answer this question, this paper will examine a basic needs approach to education. First, I will discuss the concept of a basic need. I will argue that in modern society education is necessary for decent life prospects?for people to avoid a blighted or seriously harmed life?and thus education is a basic need. Next, I will analyze if basic needs produce rights claims. After addressing several challenges to a general needs to rights argument, I will argue that basic needs generate positive rights. In order for all people to have effective opportunities to obtain a basic education, some positive action is required. Finally, I will consider who is responsible for the correlative duty of satisfying an educational right. My contention is that the reciprocal duty to unmet basic needs rights cannot be satisfactorily addressed through charity or citizens acting individually and is therefore, a duty which falls to the state.

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