An American Idea: Public Education
“The result of the educative process is the capacity for further education.”
One of the ideas ranking among the top ten in American history, is the creation of public schools and the public education system.
The creation of this system allowed for free access to education. It was no longer a privilege left solely to the richer members of the American population; it was and remains a right. All people, regardless of ability, can participate in this system. Students can now move from elementary school, to middle school, and finally to high school free of charge. Along with this, students are subsidized by the state at the college level, if they attend a state university.
The increased access to education, and higher education, promotes equality of opportunity. That is, people of all income brackets now have the same opportunity to nurture their talent, and achieve their potential. This is good for the individual but also for the US as whole. More educated citizens are more productive in the economy and better equipped to participate in a democracy.
Now, this is not a perfect system. In public universities, tuition is rising and subsidies are falling. Look at the UC system, tuitions increase every year, making education less affordable, and not allowing for the development of talent that is necessary in the US. UC Berkeley tuition has increased from $1,820 in 1990-1991 to $13,000 in 2013-2014, and has more than tripled since 2000. This undermines the purpose of public education, leaving it open, once again, only to the elite of society.
Public education is one of the greatest ideas and institutions in US history, but has come under attack in both the K-12 and University level. Those who have benefitted from the system have a responsibility to protect for the coming generations.