It's been quite a while since I last posted and I will write a new post describing the changes in my life and resume my weekly (or in some cases monthly!) ramblings of events occuring in the world, the news, people, culture and anything that I hold dear and close to my heart. I also plan to include a few of my photography in my upcoming posts!
So to start off I thought I'd post my writings on current events which to some may be a little old but in my opinion still relevant :) So here we go:
Britain’s youth must not be underestımated - The wrath of the tuition fee proposal
Contrary to the biggest upheaval in higher education in this country in a generation, I’ve been tentative and uncertain in gathering my own thoughts on the tuition fee proposals. In any situation seeking compromise, talking with other people about a conflict is usually an unpleasant and difficult experience. You have to be ever so careful in order to not offend and work hard to understand the other side. Observers representing all shades of opinion have filled the airwaves and column inches with warnings of disaster for UK universities and students. We’ve heard about “distressed” parents and “devastating blows” to higher education. We watched while Nick Clegg and his party wrestled with their consciences. And then, we witnessed the ‘cyber’ generation, the ‘apathetic’ ones rekindle the ancient spirit of youth activism, protesting in their thousands and leading the fight for free education. More importantly, we were then faced with demonstrations in the streets that occasionally bordered on the dangerous and damaging – the now infamous ‘Millbank Riots’ - and the debate over the limits of acceptable protest.
To put it into perspective, what we did see in the previous months was a return to early Nineteenth Century society – an embattled working class, and a middle class attempting to exert its control. While any sort of violence should not be condoned, it is easy to empathise with the students frustrations. It is all very well complaining about people protesting and getting angry, but it appears from the outset that the only way to be heard by politicians is to make a scene and this just seems like a failing in a ‘democratic’ country. The question that we should be asking ourselves instead is WHY they are protesting and WHY they are angry? It is important to consider that perhaps those committing the outrages are not ‘a few bad apples’ but decent, principled people driven to fury by the failure of our democracy?
One particular concern of mine was the introduction of a market in higher education in which students base their course choice on cost price alone – and where public funding for most subjects is removed. This would mean that while the arts and humanities face extinction, subjects with a self-evident ‘market value’ will be placed on a pedestal, in the understandable hope of a certain return for investment. After all, why should anyone promote the study of Shakespeare, Austen, the history of conflict and resolution or the philosophical meaning of life when there are more important issues that need our attention and require our money?
It is exactly this sort of thinking which will inevitably harm our education system as a whole and the ways in which we interact as a society. While humanities neither bring an end to war nor prevent disease and hunger, it can teach society WHY these miseries persist and WHY society continues to make the same mistakes over and over again. Hamlet isn’t an antidote or a recipe for how we should live our lives, but it can allow us to critically reflect on the relationship between justice and revenge. And while Jane Austen novels mainly revolve around the Byzantine machinations of suitors and hungry brides, even the briefest act or dialogue or the mere description of a character’s manner of dress is freighted with moral content.
In endorsing the Brown review, the government has also agreed to transferring the whole cost of tuition through a loan system that will lead to massive levels of debts. This would mean young students from more privileged backgrounds are more likely to participate in higher education than their working class peers. It would mean returning to the time when only the rich, the privileged and the powerful were able to attend university, to maintain their elite status. Surely it is only right to assume that education should be right at all levels, a right which is earned by ability and not by the size of one’s wallet. No one should be a victim of their Post Code.
While it is important to discuss the shortcomings of the tuition fee proposal, any arguments are considered cyclical and pointless without a credible alternative. If no one puts forward a worthy counter strategy, then UK may be forced to accept these changes and the potential social stratification they entail. But no amount of misfortune should be allowed to obscure one fundamental truth: that the protest at Millbank is only the beginning of the seething discontent that has accumulated as a result of the cuts. The movement of the students marks the initial steps in the class struggle, a prelude to the awakening of the British working class and proof that Britain’s youth must not be underestimated.