Issue Number 237 July 15, 2018

This free Information Age Education Newsletter is edited by Dave Moursund and produced by Ken Loge. The newsletter is one component of the Information Age Education (IAE) publications.

All back issues of the newsletter and subscription information are available online. In addition, seven free books based on the newsletters are available: Joy of Learning; Validity and Credibility of Information; Education for Students’ Futures; Understanding and Mastering Complexity; Consciousness and Morality: Recent Research Developments; Creating an Appropriate 21st Century Education; and Common Core State Standards for Education in America.

My most recent free book, The Fourth R, has had more than 15,000 pageviews (Moursund, 12/23/2016). This 4th R of Reasoning/computational thinking is fundamental to empowering today’s students and their teachers throughout the PreK-12 curriculum. An updated version is scheduled for publication in July.

Education As a Birthright: What Does This Mean?

David Moursund
Professor, Emeritus, College of Education
University of Oregon

 “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” (African proverb)

The first formal schools were developed a little more than 5,000 years ago, shortly after the development of reading and writing. However, the education of children had been going on for hundreds of thousands of years. The quotation given above captures the spirit of learning by living, learning by doing, and learning by being part of an educational system called a community.

Initially, very few people learned to read and write. But, over thousands of years, more and more readable content was developed, and it gradually became apparent that there was considerable value in knowing the basic “3 Rs” of Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic.

These 3Rs are now expanding to include a new 4th R of Reasoning/computational thinking that is increasingly important in our personal lives, our schools, and throughout society. Computational thinking is drawing on the “brain” power of computers—including their artificial intelligence. Mastery of this new 4th R is now an essential skill to enrich one’s own quality of life and to contribute significantly to the strength of one’s country (Moursund, 12/23/2016).

The following information is from the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations, 12/10/1948). In essence, there is now worldwide acceptance of the two Articles given below.

Article 25

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. [Bold added for emphasis.]

In my mind, I consider Articles 25 and 26 to be the birthrights of every child on earth. Pause a minute and think about what these birthrights mean, and consider how well the U.S. is succeeding in providing them for its residents. Through no fault of their own, many of our children are not being provided with these birthrights.

Notice that these two Articles are closely related. We have substantial research showing that growing up in poverty with inadequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care contributes substantially to not receiving an adequate education. In essence, for many such impoverished students, their innate right to an education is being violated.

Discussion of Article 25

Notice that Article 25 states “standard of living adequate for the health and well-being.” It then goes on to quality what is included. Consider health care for example. The United States currently spends about 18.2% of its Gross National Product on health care, but by no means does the U.S. have the best health care in the world (Florimon, 3/13/2018; Statista, 2018). Indeed, many children (and their prenatal mothers) have health care that many would consider to be inadequate.

Currently in the United States, many people live in such abject poverty that securing adequate daily food is probabilistic (Moursund 5/1/2014). Also, many people are homeless. Clearly the United States still has a long way to go to meet the requirements of Article 25.

Discussion of Article 26

Article 26 merely refers to “the right to education,” not the right to a good education. It only indicates that “Elementary education shall be compulsory.”

As I think about Article 26, a variety of questions and concerns come to my mind. Here are some examples.
  1. The term “elementary education” does not mean the same thing throughout the world. In the United States, it typically means grades K-5, and increasingly also includes pre-kindergarten. It does not indicate the length of a school day or school year. It does not indicate what topics are to be covered or the level of achievement we should strive for.
  2. In the United States today, as well as in other countries, many children grow up in abject poverty, often with only one parent, and with inadequate educational experiences outside of their schooling. Research indicates that, on average, growing up in such an environment means receiving a much poorer education than the students growing up in two-parent, more affluent settings.
  3. The average student in the U.S. currently reaching the age of 18 can expect to live for an additional 60 years or more. My observation is that we “talk the talk” about such 18-year-olds, but we inadequately prepare our students for being responsible adults and for the lifelong learning they will need as their world continues to change.
  4. The 1948 U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights needs extensive revision to take into consideration the many changes in the world that have occurred in the past 60 years. For example, do today’s children have an innate right to an education that reflects the current capabilities of Information and Communication Technology? We now have steadily improving Artificial Intelligence aids to learning and as aids to solving problems and accomplishing the tasks that go along with being a responsible adult.
In some countries, many young students are being provided with a tablet computer or inexpensive laptop that has connectivity and includes substantial instructional software. Their human “teachers” and books are no longer their primary sources of information or delivery of instruction. What are your thoughts as to whether this constitutes merely an education or is, indeed, a good education?

Final Remarks

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized U.N. agency that currently is addressing some of my concerns. Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter. Quoting from the UNESCO Liaison Office in New York (n.d.):

A quality education throughout life is the birthright of every woman, man and child. In turn, education, particularly that of girls and women, aids progress across all development goals.

Today, UNESCO is committed to a holistic and humanistic vision of quality education worldwide, the realization of everyone’s right to education, and the belief that education plays a fundamental role in human, social, and economic development.” [Bold in this paragraph added for emphasis.]

Notice that UNESCO is now supporting the birthright of a “quality education throughout life.” I applaud this addition of the word quality as a huge step forward from the 1948 document. But, it seems to me that part of what is still missing are the facts that the world is steadily growing “smaller” in terms of communication and transportation, the human population is still steadily increasing and becoming more urbanized, and the capabilities of artificial intelligence and automation are steadily improving. I believe that our students today should have as their birthright an education that helps them to understand these three realities and the problems they present. They deserve an education that will prepare them for the continued changes they will have to adjust to throughout their lives in a constantly changing world.

What You Can Do

Each of us is both a lifelong teacher and a lifelong learner. We each face the types of changes mentioned in the paragraph given above. We each can help to prepare ourselves and also help others in their own preparation for having a high-quality of life.

If you have read this entire newsletter to its end, I say Bravo! However, there is so much more that you can do. Make use of what you have learned by reflecting on what you have done for yourself and for others in the past week, and what you expect to do in the coming weeks. Don’t be a passive bystander. Be a leader!

References and Resources

Florimon, H. (3/13/2018). Why the US spends more on health care than other countries, but doesn't fare better: Study. ABC News. Retrieved 5/21/2018 from https://abcnews.go.com/Health/us-spends-health-care-countries-fare-study/story?id=53710650.

Moursund, D. (2018). What the future is bringing us. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 5/17/2018 from http://iae-pedia.org/What_the_Future_is_Bringing_Us.

Moursund, D. (12/23/2016). The Fourth R. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Download the Microsoft Word file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/289-the-fourth-r/file.html. Download the PDF file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/290-the-fourth-r-1/file.html. Access the book online at http://iae-pedia.org/The_Fourth_R.

Moursund, D. (5/1/2014). Hungry children—America's shame. IAE Blog. Retrieved 5/22/2018 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/hungry-children-america-s-shame.html.

Statista (2018). U.S. national health expenditure as percent of GDP from 1960 to 2018. The Statistics Portal. Retrieved 5/21/2018 from https://www.statista.com/statistics/184968/us-health-expenditure-as-percent-of-gdp-since-1960/.

UNESCO Liaison Office in New York (n.d.). UNESCO and education “everyone has the right to education.” Retrieved 5/20/2018 from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco-liaison-office-in-new-york/areas-of-action/education/right-to-education/.

United Nations (12/10/1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved 5/21/2018 from http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/.

About the Author

David Moursund is an Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Oregon, and editor of the IAE Newsletter. His professional career includes founding the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) in 1979, serving as ISTE’s executive officer for 19 years, and establishing ISTE’s flagship publication, Learning and Leading with Technology. He was the major professor or co-major professor for 82 doctoral students. He has presented hundreds of professional talks and workshops. He has authored or coauthored more than 60 academic books and hundreds of articles. Many of these books are available free online. See http://iaepedia.org/David_Moursund_Books.

In 2007, Moursund founded Information Age Education (IAE). IAE provides free online educational materials via its IAE-pedia, IAE Newsletter, IAE Blog, and IAE books. See http://iaepedia.org/Main_Page#IAE_in_a_Nutshell. The IAE website has had about 14 million pageviews since its beginning. IAE is now fully integrated into the 501(C)(3) non-profit corporation, Advancement of Globally Appropriate Technology and Education (AGATE) that was established in 2016. David Moursund is the Chief Executive Officer of AGATE.

Email: moursund@uoregon.edu.

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Information Age Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving education for learners of all ages throughout the world. Current IAE activities and free materials include the IAE-pedia at http://iae-pedia.org, a Website containing free books and articles at http://i-a-e.org/, a Blog at http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog.html, and the free newsletter you are now reading. See all back issues of the Blog at http://iae-pedia.org/IAE_Blog and all back issues of the Newsletter at http://i-a-e.org/iae-newsletter.html.