Students—You Gotta Love And/Or Hate ‘Em

14 Nov

I always find myself in a bit of a sticky situation when discussing students and their financial woes, because I grew up in America, where they do everything bigger, including their student debt. This year there are more than 100 higher ed institutions in the US charging over $50,000 a year for tuition, fees and room and board (for those of you who failed your maths O-levels, that’s about £31,000). Fees vary, obviously, and also increase for out-of-state students. This total does not even factor in the required books and other supplies, VD treatment, bail money or legal fees for when students take professors to court for not giving them the grades they wanted. We’re talking big bucks here, people. Although financial aid and loans are available, the price is so high that a deal with the devil is often the only option. This explains why most US university students are soulless twats.

But English higher education has never been run in this way, so far be it from me to make a comment—as you know, I never speak on things on which I am not an expert on.

However, the protest raised one issue that affects all of us, and that is the issue of hypocrisy. Let’s take a hypothetical situation. Let’s say you have a country where three major political parties win most of the elections. Let’s say the third party, while admittedly holding far fewer seats than the other two, represents the possibility of change to much of the electorate: a belief that just maybe we could have a party in power whose policies were, I don’t know, let’s say, more “liberal” than the status quo of the two other parties, who seem to grow more and more like each other each year. Then through some odd twist of fate, the leader of that third party (just to keep the story simple I’ll give this character the name “Nick”), through some bizarre aligning of the stars, a global financial disaster and the scary smile of the incumbent, Nick somehow actually becomes Deputy Prime Minister. Hurrah! say the electorate, we are going to finally have a little bit of influence on the way things are run. This man, this Nick, he made promises—maybe even signed pledges—that if he were ever in power, he’d do right by us.

Then he didn’t.

Maybe we’d believe that this hypothetical Nick wanted to stop certain policies but just got outvoted. Maybe he would say, I have not abandoned my principles—I just don’t have enough power to overrule.

But imagine he didn’t say that. Imagine instead that he said, on reflection, he wasn’t being careful when he made the pledge, that now he knows he should have been promising the exact opposite of what he pledged. In fact, now that the older boys in the blue ties have explained everything to him, he actually reckons their ideas are more progressive than his party’s.

Now in my little story, I imagine quite a few of us would feel pretty cross at our Nick. Maybe cross enough even to, hypothetically of course, bust out a few windows and throw a few things around. It wouldn’t fix things and would probably lead to our arrests, but the anger itself would not be an inappropriate response.

Tens of thousands of students showing up at Millbank Tower Wednesday has had two important and hopefully long-lasting effects: 1. it proved that the younger generation is not apathetic and will speak up against hypocrisy and 2. because so many students were otherwise occupied, downloads of that lady’s gaga music dipped drastically. Both of these can only be good things.

One Response to “Students—You Gotta Love And/Or Hate ‘Em”

  1. M G Monday, 15 November 2010 at 19:01 #

    I’d begun to despair of the younger generation with their propensity to use ‘like’ as the most irritating temporiser ever and wear their jeans half way down their arses, but as I watched the bricks, boots and sundry debris hurled against the windows of the Conservative Party Headquarters my respect for them increased dramatically and I almost teared up in heartfelt gratitude and a vague nostalgia for the Thatcher years. It warmed my heart. I do, of course, as politicians from all parties have already said on the vast amounts of news coverage about the incident, disapprove of social disorder and the way a tiny minority have hijacked a peaceful demonstration and totally obscured the issue of tuition fees which nobody is now aware of nor talking about–unlike the issue of how the meat and dairy industry destroying the planet due to its contribution to carbon emissions and the destruction of rainforests as highlighted by an extremely peaceful Friends of the Earth demonstration held in the capital during the same week.

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