Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy 240th Birthday!

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
-- The Declaration of Independence
As you enjoy the 4th of July, take some time to reflect on public education in the U.S. and around the world and what the words "certain inalienable rights" mean.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
It’s America’s birthday today!  Let’s wave some flags and watch a parade, enjoy a picnic or grill some hot dogs and hamburgers, play some sports and definitely watch a fireworks show after dark.  It’s a time to celebrate and have fun!
As you enjoy the 4th of July, take some time to reflect on public education in the U.S. and around the world and what the words "certain inalienable rights" mean.
Puck magazine cover; source: Library of Congress
But first, let’s have a little history lesson: The first school in the United States was established in Boston in 1635, well before Independence Day in 1776.  In fact, in 1647, the colony of  Massachusetts Bay passed a law that required all towns to establish schools so children could learn to read and write.  And although these schools did not establish universal free and public education, they provided the foundation for the public school system we now have in America.

As you enjoy the 4th of July, take some time to reflect on public education in the U.S. and around the world and what the words "certain inalienable rights" mean.
Possible image of the original Boston Latin School; source: Wikimedia Commons
Let’s also remember that in the U.S. and around the world, many children do not have equal access to education.  Maybe their families can’t afford school fees.  Maybe they are girls and for cultural reasons aren’t allowed to attend school.  Maybe they have to work on family farms so they have enough food to eat.  Maybe they have to work in a factory to earn money for their families to survive.  Maybe they are physically challenged and there are no teachers who can teach them or they are not welcome at school.  Maybe they live in a country where they don’t understand the language of instruction.  Maybe they are living in a refugee camp and there are no schools.

As you enjoy the 4th of July, take some time to reflect on public education in the U.S. and around the world and what the words "certain inalienable rights" mean.
Poster at a school for handicapped children in Bhubaneswar, India; source: The ESL Nexus
The Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal” and have “certain unalienable Rights”.  Access to education should be one of those rights.  So as we enjoy the Fourth of July, we should remember how far we’ve come and also, how far we still have to go.

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