Thursday, January 3, 2013
The Right to Earn a Living in a System with Free Higher Education: Part 2
The first part of this extended argument combines a basic maxim of rights with advantages of the professional service paradigm to show that continued use of the triad is a violation of the unenumerated right of academics to earn a living.
This leg focuses on the positive nature of enumerated rights articled in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the United Nations International Declaration of Human Rights.
Canada, France, Germany, India, the UK and US have ratified these rights documents. These and other signatories who use the triad stand in breach of two articles with explicit reference to higher education:
1) 13, sections 2 (c) and (e) of the International Covenant reads: (c) Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education; and (e) The development of a system of schools at all levels shall be actively pursued, an adequate fellowship system shall be established, and the material conditions of teaching staff shall be continuously improved; and
2) 26 of the UN International Declaration of Human Rights reads: Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
Articled Imperatives and Available Means
As was the case in Part 1 state action must be consistent with the basic maxim: the more individuals able to exercise their rights the better. Unlike the first leg, there is no dispute over the existence of the rights in question or that the documents enumerating them explicitly article more than non-interference.
Relevant portions of Articles 13 and 26 might be spliced in the following imperative: By every appropriate means progress toward free higher education, with equal access (based on capacity or merit) and continuous improvement in the material conditions of academic labour.
The action required of signatories is messy business. There are competing positive rights, finite to scarce resources and concepts rife with opportunity for wordplay such as “equal,” “capacity,” “progressive,” “free,” “merit,” and “improvement.” In these conditions each play results in different social formulations of compliance with the basic maxim and articled imperatives.
The professional alternative is at least among every available means of compliance. Medicine, law, psychiatry, engineering and other professions offer service of comparable importance and even kind, with core labour earning necessary credentials from academics - the majority of which must practice higher education as part time employees of triad institutions.
If individuals taught and trained by academics are capable of offering consequent sophisticated professional services through independent private practice, then the same can be done for higher education. As evidence of plausibility consider a professional translation of the core service relationship of the enterprise between student and academic.
The only question is whether the professional alternative is among every appropriate means.
By Every Appropriate Means
Whether the term ‘appropriate’ refers narrowly to articled conditions of improved access and free higher education or broad social conditions of competing rights and economics, the appointed benefits of the professional alternative liberate signatories to pursue more progressive formulations of the enshrined rights.
Setting aside discussion of broader conditions, at least on the narrow understanding this paradigm is appropriate.
Under the triad one clear way to achieve greater universality in access is to secure more public support for higher education. If there were more money then capacity based on any measure could be expanded, no longer defined by the singular stark reality of diminished public funding and appreciation for the civic enterprise.
Wealth has always operated as a liberator. The wealthier are better off, be they individual, institution or enterprise. But in a context of persistent poverty its benefits must be achieved by means other than the acquisition of scarce new or reallocated wealth.
If the professional service paradigm were adopted the total cost of providing higher education could be reduced by as much as 75%, to the price of tuition alone. With this sort of cost reduction those that were not wealthy enough to afford an education under the current paradigm could do so. Among other things the state could offer more comprehensive student grant programs and remove the need for crippling loans secured through government programs or non-government lending institutions.
This is a third way of acquiring wealth, recovered in cost-savings realized by dismissal of the unnecessary and unsustainable triad service paradigm.
With more subtlety, if violation of the right of academics to earn a living as other similarly
placed labour were stopped and academics could offer their expertise as professionals outside the triad then absolute capacity of the enterprise would be increased, since the labour force would no longer be restricted to limited and exploitive institutional employment opportunities. More qualified academics in circulation and substantially reduced enterprise costs would mean better accommodation of merit and need, as niche practices emerge for students from the remedial to the exceptional and from the financially advantaged to the disadvantaged.
There would be a place in higher education for all, or at least for many more than the triad paradigm can hope to furnish with proper access.
Not only is equal access expanded, but academic labour would have its material conditions substantially improved in the process. Capable of operating on no more than the average rate of tuition, the professional alternative would at least double the national average annual income of $75,000 and neutralize other exploitive features of institutional higher education. I have also argued that it would result in a better fellowship system and enterprise stewardship (Chapters 3 to 5).
Whether it is measured in terms of financial need, scholastic ability, place of residence or labour circumstance this alternative paradigm affords signatories the opportunity to create the sort of higher education system described in Articles 13 and 26, including one that is free.
Because the total cost would be dramatically reduced the state could provide much cheaper if not free higher education. Advertised tuition represents between 25 and 33% of the total cost of the triad (not including the cost in government and union labour).
With the introduction of the professional paradigm there would be an embarrassment of wealth.
Nations bound by these rights agreements could more easily finance the entire reduced cost and since state support for the triad demands 3 to 4 times the public resources there would be plenty in remainder for use elsewhere by society, perhaps for even more ambitious development of free higher education world wide.
Violation of the Articled Rights
With both legs extended this argument makes it is clear the professional service paradigm (and perhaps another) must be adopted to demonstrate progress toward full realization of the articled rights or stand in breach of international agreements and a basic maxim of human rights.
Failure to do so is an ethical and legal transgression that negatively impacts the social mobility of students and academics by obstructing and not constructing the right of academics to earn a living in a system with free higher education.
But forget any alleged breach of formal agreement. Because of the critical function higher education has in the advancement of civilization we are obligated to do better than the triad.
It is the source of virtually all knowledge in important areas from the environment and energy to the cosmos and computation. If there are means of responding to the challenges humanity faces or achieving the goals we have for person and planet, they will with high probability come from this civic enterprise.
The violation here is more profound than law alone can articulate.