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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that every citizen has the right to primary and secondary level education, regardless of race, class, gender, sexuality. Although higher education is not funded by the federal government, the government is responsible for creating policy framework and administering appropriate oversight. Therefore, university and college admission should be determined by merit, not discrimination. And environments should foster equal support, inclusivity, and opportunity.
Despite it all, educational injustice perseveres. In 1954, Brown v. Board of Education rejected the doctrine “separate but equal” on the basis that it denied Black Americans the right to prejudice-free education. In 1964, The Civil Rights Act was revised to include Title 9 — “a mechanism for ensuring equal opportunity in federally assisted programs and activities” (U.S Department of Education). Yet, it wasn’t until the 1969-70 Office for Civil Rights investigation that these government policies were effectively enforced. 46 years later, Black college students still endure the effects of higher education’s institutionalized racism.
According to National Center for Education Statistics, “from 1976 to 2013…the percentage of black [college] students rose from 10% to 15%.” These jarring statistics reflect our government’s inadequate efforts to protect minority rights to education and social mobility. This is unacceptable.
But, how do we change the system? The answer is simple: we vote!
This election, it is absolutely essential for minority students to go out and vote. Our votes will decide who will execute the most efficient changes in our education system.
When asked about the most important issues facing students in the upcoming election, Dr. Ray of UCLA medical stated “college debt. Education shouldn’t cost anything. To be purposeful you need to have skill sets. It’s up to the people in power to ensure that opportunity.”
The primary candidates in this year’s presidential election, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, have very different ideas on education reform. In her College Compact proposal, Hillary Clinton asserts that in-state higher education should be free, federal aid processes simplified, and formal measures enacted to decrease student debt (Forbes). Clinton’s progressive platform aims to address the financial fears and needs of underprivileged students by creating a “federal-state partnership.” It is established on the belief that no student should have to take out loans to attend a public, state university (Time). Through her plan, crippling debt and steep loan interest would be replaced by “reasonable parent-contribution,” a current loan interest cap, and loan forgiveness after 20 years. It would seem that for Clinton, education is not an elite privilege but a right.
Republican candidate Donald Trump has asserted he is a “tremendous believer in education.” But despite his proclaimed enthusiasm, Trump’s plan of action lacks structure and practicality. It is composed on broad principles of localizing education, reducing spending, and removing common core . His platform does not say “how we should fund and fix our schools, train and pay our teachers, and, most importantly, educate every child whether they’re rich or poor, fluent in English” and so forth (NPR). Further, for higher level education Trump fails to empathize with the financial limitations of underprivileged youth. He states, “a four-year degree today can be expensive enough to create six-figure debt. We can’t forgive these loans, but we should take steps to help students.”
Trump’s platform on education is unsettling because not only does it remove government’s role and responsibility as providers of education, but it completely ignores the struggles of minority students. According to the Washington Post, “less than two-thirds of white graduates from public schools borrow, [while] four out of five black graduates take out loans for college. And black students who do borrow come out with more debt than their peers.” Without government intervention, the inherent inequalities and injustices embedded in the system persist unchallenged.
Not only does Trump dismiss important minority concerns, he has actively used his platform to undermine minority success. “I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?” asserted Trump on the program Hardball. For Trump, success and minorities are mutually exclusive. During a time of inclusivity issues, this rhetoric reinforces the institutional racism plaguing black students. It says people of color do not belong at prestigious schools.
As children we are taught education is the only avenue for change. But what are we supposed to do when our right to education is stripped from us? When our nation was founded on the abuse and oppression of voiceless, powerless minorities, how else–if not through education–are we supposed to prove our worth?
One day education will truly be a right, not a privilege. But until then, increased pressure must be placed on politicians to correct social injustices.
Be part of the change and vote November 8th.