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North Bay / Marin | Education & Student Activism

The Right to Education In America
by Corey Aldridge
Tuesday Dec 13th, 2011 2:07 PM
The United Nations states that education is an inherit human right within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United States has no such federal law that guarantees education for all, including non-citizens. However, there has been a push to end the apartheid of education that resembles some educational issues of the pre-Civil Rights movement.
Education serves as a pathway and access-point to bigger and better opportunities including a broader range of career choices, better paying jobs, political power, and societal acceptance. The United Nations even included education as Article 25 within their Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is oddly curious that the United States does not have any federal legislation making access to education a legal right. With a surge of laws in the past ten years regarding education, immigration, and immigrant rights, we can see some similarities between the Civil Rights movement of the twentieth century and the movement for equality for undocumented students.

Before the culmination of the Civil Rights movement, many African-American and minority students were rarely able to access and achieve a level of education that was available to the white population. Many universities were all white and did not accept minorities, leading students that wanted to achieve a higher education with certain African-American colleges or nothing at all. These colleges lacked diversity of programs and were not really on the same level as other institutions. Since then, the fight for equal educational rights has moved to undocumented students. California’s AB-540, AB-130, and AB-131 focus on giving opportunities to undocumented students, the latter two comprise the California Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. Unfortunately, none of the three pieces of legislation completely solve problems for students and if they happen to finish their education, they still lack citizenship. This actual lack of citizenship, which is more legitimatized than the second-class citizenship minorities have experienced, keeps undocumented students in a state of limbo. If the Federal DREAM Act was to be passed, higher education would be one of the ways legitimate citizenship would be accomplished. Much like before the Civil Rights movement, there is an apartheid in education that keeps those that are already marginalized the inability to better their situation. By keeping people from education, those in power are able to remain unchallenged because education is the easiest way to obtain a voice and hence power.