I recently read a book titled “Crossing the Finish Line” which describes the dire circumstances that the state of our higher education system is in. There are a lot of reasons that education is important. However, in my opinion, the single greatest reason that education is important is because it not only supports but advances freedom and justice for all.
For example, a study of the National Bureau of Economic Research tracked the percentage of the population who’s earnings are among the top 10% of income earners in 20 countries from 1910 to 2005. The study shows that in many developed countries, the percentage of the population that earns the highest income levels has almost doubled in since World War II.
Some economists believe that this is due not only to the economic policies of those countries but also the education policies. In other words, those countries that have successfully offered education opportunities to their populations have seen dramatic increases in incomes and distribution of wealth.
How does this tie into freedom and justice for all?
If education leads to higher incomes and higher incomes lead to more choice it makes sense to argue that education leads to freedom. It’s true that education can develop one’s mind to think freely and that kind of freedom in and of itself is invaluable. But in a more practical sense, the increase in income that an education brings, equips people with freedom to choose a lifestyle of their liking. For many, this freedom to choose is what makes life spectacular.
Some people will argue that educated people have committed heinous crimes and financial scandals. This is true. But those types of people would have probably figured out a way to manipulate any system that they worked under. Education did not force them to make poor choices but their character did. Margaret Thatcher once said, “I do not negotiate my principles, I negotiate from my principles”. Of course, that implies that one must have principals from which to negotiate.
The bottom line is that education helps redistribute wealth and opportunity giving people the freedom to chose a lifestyle of their liking. As Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board remarked with regard to the U.S., “the best way to improve economic opportunity and to reduce inequality is to increase the educational attainment and skills of American workers”
Education is the key to freedom. Freedom is bliss. With our education system currently in need of spectacular reform, it’s time to defend our freedom. It’s time to innovate.