By Evelyn Pyburn

A few months ago, I encountered a news story about a recent court decision that was at once heartening and disheartening.

A federal judge ruled that children do not have a fundamental right to learn to read and write. A surprising ruling, given the state of our judicial system, but a wonderful ruling for freedom.

The ruling essentially addresses a claim that is also in the Montana Constitution – that everyone has a right to an education.

It’s an absurdity that this should be found in a document that ostensibly supports freedom, because government cannot promise something to one without obligating another – obligating them against their will – the antithesis of individual freedom.

Whether it is education, health care, food, housing, or a cell phone, to declare some “thing” as a “right” for some people is to immediately enslave others. Who is to be enslaved to provide the promised goods, by virtue of nothing more than the fact that they were born? Is there some group within our society that is undeserving of freedom, while another group, superior to them, is deserving of the unearned?

It is a lack of understanding about this issue that leads so many people down the road to socialism. With better understanding of what they are really asking for, they would know that freedom is not about free stuff, but about freedom of action, something that socialism sets out at the very beginning to quash.

A “right” is not a gift card. Rights, as set up in the Bill of Rights, are about being free to act. You don’t have a right to education, you have the right to try to obtain education. You don’t have a right to a job, you have a right to try to get a job, to earn a living, to earn the food and housing you need.

Rights are about being able to live as you choose. They are not without obligations. Your primary obligation is to negotiate and navigate through society in such a way as to gain what you need WITHOUT using FORCE against another person, as becomes necessary if one group is enslaved to provide for another.

(The only justifiable use of force is in self-defense, and that includes the purpose of the government of a free nation. And, this is a moral issue that is not suspended because government is conducting the theft on your behalf. For the government to force one group to provide free education to another, is just as immoral as a student mugging a businessman in a back alley.)

For individuals to function as they choose in a moral society, while most often means to act to earn the things you need, and to be free to barter and to make voluntary exchanges  . . . it also means being able to voluntarily help one another. To voluntarily donate to a cause that helps others, to form organizations that voluntarily provide support to those who need it, which would include supporting free education because they believe it to be vital to a strong economy and enjoyable society. They could also voluntarily fund research and exploration, and civic activities that improve society and advance civilization.

The disheartening thing about the report on this court decision is that it was immediately followed (in a not so objective way) by quotes from teachers denouncing it as outrageous.

“The message that it sends is that education is not important,” said the President of the Detroit Federation of Teachers.

This person – involved with the education of our children – does not see that the decision is underscoring the importance of freedom. What this teacher fails to understand is that without an environment that assures freedom, no true education is remotely possible. You end up with exactly what we see happening in our colleges today – where students are without the intellect to ponder differing points of view. . . where the only way they can dispute ideas with which they disagree is to silence those who present them, and to insulate themselves from the adversity of new ideas or people who are different.

It is disheartening that we have teachers, who are teaching our children — not about the profound underpinnings of the Bill of Rights — but to demand the unearned and to advance an enslaved society.

The court case was, of course, not quite as clear cut as this. Fundamentally, this case was about the fact that government is collecting people’s taxes with the commitment to provide their children an education. The case was brought on behalf of students who failed to get an education. Parents claimed that government was obligated to provide it – a claim that in a sense cannot be denied given government’s excuse for the process of seizing taxes.

Government makes commitments all the time that it fails to keep, but it seldom causes anyone to rethink their expectations. These parents were not arguing that they wanted to change that. They were not demanding the freedom to pursue their own educational choices.

And, while this judge declared that the children do not have a right to expect government to provide an education, he said nothing about the fraud perpetrated upon the parents and students by a government that failed to live up to the commitment it made. At least in the private sector, purchasing the education they wanted, the parents would have had a case.


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