Nearly all of the world’s 180-plus countries include the term education in their constitution. Most guarantee every child the right to free education, and many make participation in some form of schooling mandatory; some even provide universal access to affordable college. For the remaining handful, the UN’s decades-old treaty on children’s rights, which stipulates various educational protections, serves as a backup, and has been ratified by pretty much every sovereign nation on the planet. Except for one.

That one country is the United States of America, a nation that prizes the idea that anyone should be able to build a better life through education and hard work. Activists have occasionally sought to address this constitutional omission through congressional legislation, grassroots campaigns, and federal litigation, but they’ve never succeeded. Of the few cases that have made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, not a single one has managed to secure a majority ruling in favor of an argument that there is an implied right to an education in the Constitution. Against this backdrop, federal litigation over educational rights has all but disappeared in the past half century. Meanwhile, the nation’s public schools continue to vary significantly in funding, quality, and academic and social outcomes.


The above is an excerpt from an article originally published in The Atlantic. Read the full article here.

Alia Wong

Alia Wong is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers education and families. She previously wrote for Honolulu Civil Beat.


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