Article 26 of the Declaration of Human Rights:
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
Education, from Thomas Jefferson to the UN’s declaration of Human Rights, has been said to exist for the purpose of civic engagement. This is strikingly not the case for public education in America (and other capitalist nations). Instead, here and in other similar capitalist countries, education primarily exists to best prepare one for the competitive job market. Education, and thus attempts at reform, are in every way in service to the job market. The most significant attempt at promoting civic engagement comes from marginalized humanities disciplines (that are garnering less and less attention) or the thought that “by becoming an engineer I can help America beat China in the 21st century globalized economy!”
In order for education to attend to its sacred mission of preparing for and promoting civic engagement the state needs to take a bigger role as an employer. The most prominent employer, or at least one of the most prominent employers, needs to be a public one. Post-secondary education exists to prepare people for jobs as a doctor or lawyer or teacher, not K-12. Only if the government assists in providing and managing employment on a large scale, thereby ending the tyranny of the free market as the only significant employer, can education take on any other role than it does now.
And, of course, said education should remain primarily a public service.