Today, education plays an extremely important role in the life of people because the modern society is highly technological and the overall progress of science and technology makes education essential. At the same time, education was not so important in the past as it is today but some specialists foresaw the development of the society and technology and stressed the importance of education. In this respect, it is possible to refer to works by DeWitt Clinton, who was one of the first, who noticed the growing role of education and foresaw the vital importance of education in the future. Even though her works date back to the past centuries, they are still relevant and applicable to the modern society that proves that policy makers and educators had failed to follow her recommendations, whereas she was absolutely right in her appeal to make education free because the free access to education is the only condition to maintain the existing social order and to preserve democracy and society from decay.
First of all, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that DeWitt Clinton stands for free public education because she believes that education is essential for people, whereas, in the future, the role of education will grow even more significant. Therefore, she insists that people should have free access to education because the role of education will increase in the future.
At this point, she argues that education has to be grounded on the principal of equality because it is important for the integration of individuals into social life. What is meant here is the fact that individuals acquire important social experience in the course of their education. In such a way, people learn how to interact with each other in a social group and how to build up social relations with other people as they study at school or college, for instance. At the same time, the socialization contributes to the better integration in the community and individuals, who receive education, are more successful in their integration in the community life. Therefore, they have better opportunities to be successful in their communities.
In such a situation, the lack of education causes wide social gaps and leads to the social tension in the society. DeWitt Clinton foresaw the increased role of education. Today, it is obvious that people have different level of education and different opportunities to receive education, whereas many people are just deprived of an opportunity to receive education. In this respect, the role of education in the social life of people and their professional development and career can hardly be underestimated. The progress of technologies and science makes education essential for the successful employment of individuals. People cannot find well-paid and prospective job, if they do not have good education. In fact, the lack of education leaves people no other options but to find employment in low-paid semi- or low-qualified jobs. As a result, they cannot count for normal conditions of living and they are doomed to the steady marginalization and exclusion from the normal social life. In such a situation, people, who have no education or who have limited access to education, turn out to be in a disadvantageous position compared to well-educated people, who have better job opportunities. As a result, people, who have limited access to education, are doomed to hold lower position in the society, whereas people with higher education can benefit and succeed holding top positions in the society. In such a way, the upper- and middle class is shaped by educated people, whereas lower-class consists of people with low educational level. Hence, the risk of the social tension and conflicts between different classes of the society arises because low-educated people turn out to be in a disadvantageous position and the gap will grow wider, unless policy makers fail to close educational gaps.
Furthermore, education is essential to keep pace with rapidly progressing technology. Otherwise, education becomes the cause of antagonism between different social classes depending on their access to education. Classes having unlimited access to education will improve their position, whereas classes deprived of education will suffer from the ongoing deterioration of their position. As a result, the inequality in the society will become even more distinct than it is at the moment.
In actuality, it is important to understand that education is not a mere commodity anymore but a social good. This is exactly what DeWitt Clinton attempted to tell the society and to persuade policy makers to change their attitude to education. They have to provide access to education for all people without any restrictions and limitations. People should have equal access to education because this will create conditions for the elimination of social barriers and inequality in the society. Well-educated people will have better opportunities to improve their position in the society and to reach the higher level of standards of living.
Clinton, D.W. Free Schools. New York: Random House, 2008.