“Mankind owes to the child the best that it has to give.” (United Nations Declaration of Human Rights of the Child, 1959.)
Article 26 states of this 1959 declaration states: “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.” [Bold added for emphasis.]
I recently read an article about home access to the Internet for school students in the United States. Based on a survey, the article indicated that about 42% of teachers at high-poverty schools said they avoid assigning homework that would require an internet connection (Klein, 9/18/2019, link). This is because many teachers perceive that some or many of their students lack adequate home internet connectivity needed to do such assignments.
This made me think about whether it should be a right (an inalienable right) of students in the US (or in the world) to have good at-home access to the Internet, or should it be a privilege limited to only certain students? I thought about the difference between these two terms (Wikipedia, 2019, link):
A privilege is a certain entitlement to immunity granted by the state or another authority to a restricted group, either by birth or on a conditional basis.... By contrast, a right is an inherent, irrevocable entitlement held by all citizens or all human beings from the moment of birth. [Bold added for ewmphasis.]
My 10/31/2018 IAE Newsletter is titled The Inalienable Rights of Children (Moursund, 10/31/2018, link). It focuses on education as an inalienable right of children, an idea that has gradually gained global acceptance during the past century.
How good an education is this inalienable right? is the questions we might ask. How qualified do the teachers need to be? What constitutes a good curriculum? What facilities need to be provided? How about books for every student, a library and/or good access to the Internet? Does good schooling require a building where students and their teachers regularly come together? Does such a building need good heating and cooling facilities? How about good drinking water, clean restrooms, and a cafeteria? As you can see, defining the quality of this good education that is an inalienable right is not a simple issue.
Consider the question of integrating Information and Communication Technology (ICT) into the curriculum. The Fourth R is my free book that introduces a 4th R of Reasoning/Computational Thinking to the traditional 3 Rs of Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic. I strongly believe that our students now need to learn about Reasoning that uses a combination of human power and computer brain power to solve problems and accomplish tasks. In my book I make the case that such Reasoning is now a fundamental component of a good education (Moursund, 2018, link).
A basic elementary school education is now available to most of our world’s children. The curriculum in such schooling typically includes reading, writing, arithmetic, as well as diverse other topics selected by the teachers, schools, school districts, states or provinces, and countries.
Globally, we are doing well in reading If we look globally at todays’ young adults ages 15 to 24, we find that more than 90% of them are literate (Roser & Ortiz-Ospina, 9/20/2018, link). That is a remarkable global achievement! Similar progress has occurred in writing and arithmetic.
When I was a child, the Internet did not exist. Students learned to read from hard copy (printed or handwritten) materials. I grew up learning that even in my own country of the United States, many children lacked access to books at home. In privileged towns such as my home town of Eugene, Oregon, adults and children collected used books to send to less privileged people in other areas.
I see an analogy between that book situation and today’s situation that many students lack adequate home access to computers and the Internet. This is a major problem because computers and the Internet have changed the meaning of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Much of the reading material we want students to access in school today is interactive multimedia. So, we want students to learn to read and write (that is, to communicate) both in traditional pencil-and-paper writing and printed book modes, and in multimedia computer modes. We want them to learn to understand and use math in a world where calculators and computers are a routine aid to doing math. We want students to learn to make effective use of the Internet and the Web, both for schooling and in their personal lives.
Of course, the problem is much more complex. Today’s children and adults cannot collect an object called “good home and school access to the Internet” and send it to other students in less privileged areas. The cost of providing good connectivity varies considerably among different locations. Economically poor students, especially in sparsely populated rural regions, are definitely at risk of having poor or no connectivity.
This problem reminds me of the Rural Free Delivery (RFD) of mail that was established by the U.S. Federal Government in 1896 to deliver mail directly to farm families. Before RFD, rural inhabitants had to pick up their mail themselves at post offices that often were located many miles away, or pay private express companies for delivery.
There is a nice analogy between surface mail delivery and the Internet. An economically developed country provides both for its people.
Based on the information given above, it seems obvious that good home access to computers and the Internet should now be an inalienable right of all students in all countries, and that this should become a global goal. I strongly believe that the United States federal government is amiss in that it has not yet undertaken this task for all students in its own country.
What You Can Do
If you are a teacher, I think the answer is obvious. Work in your school, school district, and community to spread the idea that good computer facilities and Internet connectivity are an inalienable right of all students, both at school and at home. The curriculum you teach should be an ongoing demonstration of the value of full implementation of this inalienable right of students.
If you are a person who believes this is an inalienable right of students, but are not currently a teacher in your community’s schools, investigate the current situation. What is the adequacy of the home and school computers available to your students, and how good is the connectivity? How effectively is their use integrated into the everyday curriculum? Work through your school district and community to improve this situation.
A good way to do this is to hold in mind the analogy of reading, writing, and arithmetic in a “by-hand, hard-copy print” world. This world is in the past—it is not the world of the future that our children face.
References and Resources
Klein, A. (9/18/2019). Lack of home Internet access is educational hardship, report suggests. Education Week. Retrieved 9/21/2019 from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2019/09/common-sense-media-broadband-access.html.
Moursund, D. (2018). The Fourth R (Second Edition). Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Retrieved 9/21/2019 from http://iae-pedia.org/The_Fourth_R_(Second_Edition). Download the Microsoft Word file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/307-the-fourth-r-second-edition.html. Download the PDF file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/308-the-fourth-r-second-edition-1.html. Download La Cuarta R, the Spanish edition from http://iae-pedia.org/La_Cuarta_R_(Segunda_Edici%C3%B3n).
Moursund, D. (10/31/2018). Inalienable rights of children. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 9/21/2019 from https://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2018-244.html.
Roser, M., & Ortiz-Ospina, E. (9/20/2018). Literacy. Our World in Data. Retrieved 9/21/2019 from https://ourworldindata.org/literacy.