Why Educate Everybody? (This is why)

One of the problems I’ve seen in principle (if not explicitly stated) is “Why do we bother to offer everyone an education, especially when so many people waste the opportunity?”  I think our country has forgotten why we educate absolutely everyone (even -and especially- the poor and disadvantaged), and provide everyone with the opportunity to be successful.  Thankfully, that reason has nothing to do with high-minded altruism, so it’s rigorous to survive the most unabashed selfishness.

The robust reason that we provide everyone with the opportunity to succeed is because we cannot know in advance who the geniuses are going to turn out to be (no matter how much we try), and the cost of offering education to literally everyone is cheaper than the benefit even a single genius brings to our nation.

It is true that there will be many, many people who choose to squander the opportunity they get – that’s just the nature of offering something extremely valuable to children who don’t appreciate its worth.  But the best and brightest are the ones who will change the world (at least in the realms of science, medicine, and engineering), and we should not hobble our country by condemning young people based on their parents’ ability to pay for their education.

These are the people who could cure cancer, master fusion, or something else we haven’t even imagined yet.

This is ignoring the compelling but non-selfish argument that everyone should be offered the opportunity to become the best person they can be, and how that opportunity is fundamental to basic personal liberty, but that’s requiring people to care about morals and principles.  We can always trust people to be self interested, and if living in a wealthy nation where you don’t have to be the genius yourself to enjoy the fringe benefits, then I don’t know what is.

I have heard much made about how “China and India have so many more doctors and engineers than we do”, and “There’s a shortage of STEM professionals”.  Those countries also have far more people than we do – we can’t afford to let anyone with potential slip through if we want to be able to keep up with them.


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