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The Right to Learn

Manuel Luis Espinoza, assistant professor of Educational Foundations and 2012 National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow, and his research team of bold-thinking CU Denver undergraduate students are leveraging a commonality of purpose to advocate for more access to robust learning opportunities for all students in Colorado and the United States.

Espinoza and his research team, consisting of students Tamara Lhungay and Mandy Wong and community activist and former Young Migrant Program participant Tania Soto Valenzuela, have become fluent in the languages of social science and the law: theories and hypotheses, data and statistics, and landmark legal cases relating to education. They also bring real-life experiences that have added to their knowledge. Espinoza, for instance, is a Chicano social scientist who is a product of desegregation and busing. Soto Valenzuela is a social activist on issues such as the Colorado ASSET bill, and her parents were migrant workers. Now they are applying what they know and coming up with a framework for how they might influence educational law and rights.

Providing most Americans with an inspiring and equitable education has continuously been a struggle. Few schools offer all their students a rich, lively curriculum that teaches for comprehension. Fewer schools are able to teach a diverse set of students how to engage in productive social interaction and make decisions together—skills that are extremely important in our democratic society.

“Some consider learning a fundamental right,” said Espinoza. “At the moment, it is more of a ‘rights claim,’ or a human activity that aspires to be a right, a legal power.”

The team has been preparing to publish their findings in the journal Law and Human Behavior. Harvard Educational Review has also invited Espinoza to publish a paper on the right to learn, which will likely appear in 2013.

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