Apparently Literacy is Not a ‘Fundamental Right’, But it Should Be

In 2018, you shouldn’t have to file lawsuits so that kids get access to teachers and books,” says Mark Rosenbaum the lead attorney in a lawsuit filed by Public Counsel, a Los Angeles based law firm, on behalf of Detroit students against state officials including Gov. Rick Snyder. The lawsuit sought to hold them accountable for systemic failures that deprived Detroit children of their right to literacy.

Lawyers for the state of Michigan argued to dismiss this lawsuit saying there is no fundamental right to literacy, subsequently the plaintiffs lawyers opposed the motion to dismiss and maintained that the city and state officials were, “all too familiar with illiteracy’s far reaching effects.” They went on to claim illiteracy contributed to Detroit’s inability to connect people to good paying careers, to fill job openings within local government, as well as growing the city overall.

After both sides presented their arguments, U.S. District judge Stephen Murphy III began his ruling. He spoke on what he believed to be the importance of literacy.

“Plainly, literacy — and the opportunity to obtain it — is of incalculable importance,” Murphy wrote in a 40-page opinion. “As plaintiffs point out, voting, participating meaningfully in civic life, and accessing justice require some measure of literacy.”

However, Judge Murphy contained that those measures, “do not necessarily make access to literacy a fundamental right.” Judge Murphy then regarded literacy as a good or service as if it was something citizens could go and obtain at a local market or have a serviceman make a service call if it was to ever need fixing.

What is a Fundamental Right?

Fundamental rights are rights that receive protection from the federal government; these rights are recognized and defended by the Supreme Court. Such protection prevents those right from being violated by federal, state, or local government. Additionally, states can add to fundamental rights, but never lessen or violate them. The core fundamental rights of the United States are:

  • Right to self-determination
  • Right to liberty
  • Right to due process of law
  • Right to freedom of movement
  • Right to freedom of thought
  • Right to freedom of religion
  • Right to freedom of expression
  • Right to peaceful assembly
  • Right to freedom of association

What is so problematic about these so called protections is that they are bound by the interpretation of judges who sit on the Supreme Court. A citizen needs a certain level of literacy to begin to understand their rights. Literacy basically ensures you fully understand the Constitution and Bill of Rights that was penned to protect you and your rights. Without the ability to read, write, and comprehend, this is impossible to accomplish. Historically, we have seen how groups of individuals suppressed literacy to oppress, enslave, and hold back generations of people. The ability to read, write, and comprehend are essential to a man’s freedom, freedom that is protected by the Bill of Rights as fundamental rights.

I personally contend that Judge Murphy and any other interpreter of the law are dead wrong when they determine that literacy is not a fundamental right. Any basic ability that allows a citizen to understand their rights has to take precedent in the determination of whether it is fundamental or not. One must be literate to understand one’s rights. That is common sense. What I am seeing here though is a continuation of the practices of yesteryear. Individuals like Judge Murphy know the way to control a group of people is to make them unable to understand and comprehend in a basic manner. It seems as if Judge Murphy may be just fine going back to a time when a human being could be killed for learning how to read. What is ironic is that as a representative of the state of Michigan, Judge Murphy could have set the bar for education nationally by determining literacy as a fundamental rights since state can add to fundamental rights. Instead, Judge Murphy decided to take the low road and go against the students of the state of Michigan and city of Detroit. I guess Judge Murphy is just doing his part in making America great again one ruling at a time.


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