Introduction to American Government PSCI 130 Professor Marc Meredith
Fall 2015 Writing Assignment 9/30/2015
ATTACH THIS SHEET ON TOP OF YOUR PAPER
Write your name here:_____Alexandra Tolhurst-Swim__________________
Circle your TA’s name here: Barnard Kim Posey Wuest
Enter your word count here (max 1500):_____1498_________________
HARD COPY DUE OCTOBER 12 AT 12PM IN STITELER 216
Read the attached article by Kristen A. Graham that was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on September 21, 2015. Your assignment in this paper is to react to the following statement: “The situation in the Philadelphia public schools described in this article is a direct implication of the Founding Fathers failure to define education as a fundamental right in the Constitution.” More specifically, answer the question: would redefining education as a fundamental right solve the discrepancies highlighted in the article? Make sure your paper has a clear thesis statement backed up with evidence from the class readings and any other additional readings you choose to cite. (more on this below). Your answer should touch on a number of features about the Constitution, separation of powers, federalism, and civil rights and civil liberties. Specifically, it should discuss:
1) whether you agree that education is a fundamental right and should be protected by the Equal Protection Clause; 2) how would the Supreme Court evaluate education funding cases differently if education was considered a fundamental right; 3) whether it is surprising that there are large discrepancies in education spending over different school districts; 4) would the court defining education as a fundamental right be sufficient to implement change






Alexandra Tolhurst-Swim
PSCI 130/ Prof. Meredith
Education as a Fundamental Right
If we were to sit down with one of the Founding Fathers today and make an argument that education should have been included in the Constitution as a fundamental right of citizens, would we change his mind so that he would argue for it at the Constitutional Convention? Civil liberties, or fundamental rights, were thought by the Founding Fathers to be those natural rights that were essential to human progress (Wilson, Dilulio, and Bose 20). By constitutionally guaranteeing citizens the right to education, there would be a strong culture of education portrayed nationally, and more importantly, legal protection of a standard for that right. When the Founding Fathers set out to write the Constitution, the colonies already portrayed a strong culture of education; that is, education has always been a core value in our society (Meredith, Class One: The Study of American Politics). Bearing all of this in mind, why wasn’t education included as a fundamental right from the beginning? An education is what most people consider the essential factor to their progress; when a citizen is denied the opportunity to progress their potential through as equal an educational opportunity as his or her peers, they are inevitably inhibited comparatively because of the association in American society between a person’s potential and their income. So when the Founding Fathers set their definition of liberties as “those natural rights that are essential to human progress,” education should’ve been the first of those rights to be included as it is undeniably true that one cannot progress in any career without an education.
While it is true that defining education as a fundamental right would solve funding discrepancies between school districts, it is important to understand why these discrepancies happen and what it would take to change these discrepancies in our modern society. This involves an understanding of some key features of our government and the consequences of the features, such as federalism, state-national government interaction, civil rights and the history of education as a civil rights claim, and the Supreme Court’s role in enacting such detrimental changes.
First, one needs to understand that the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution at a time when the political realities of the moment were much different and they were namely highlighting issues had with Britain. This caused them to create a government that could do only what the Constitution said it could, and they didn’t see it necessary (or possible) to write all that their new government could not do, which is one reason the Constitution has such vague and elastic language (which is important in that the Supreme Court’s job is to interpret this language) (Wilson, Dilulio, and Bose 36).