Thursday, 9 December 2010

Protest and Education

There is much kerfuffle going on in the Uk at present about the Government's proposal to increase University fees.  It has been made quite clear that no money will have to be paid up front - student loans will be available to cover these fees at the time they become due, and graduates will not have to start repaying these loans until their earnings reach quite a high threshold - certainly far higher a level of income than we ever had, even while bringing up 4 children!

One of my children did go to University, and came out of Bradford with a very respectable degree - despite her dyslexia, and very little financial support from us.  None the less, I am, personally, very irritated by this wave of anger on the part of many students and their supporters.  They clearly don't realise that Higher Education, or even basic education, is not a right, but a privilege, that in many parts of the world, for millions of people is no more than a dream. Also, while many degrees can lead to their holders adding greatly to benefit of the nation as a whole, many more certainly do not - we all know of graduates working in burger bars! 

Higher education, like everything else that is wholly or partially funded by tax revenues, needs to demonstrate that it is not taking from those with very little in order to benefit those who are already comparatively privileged, and is of benefit to the nation as a whole. We have a tendency in the West to be in awe of academic achievement to an inordinate degree, yet anyone in the working world with any experience and understanding is all too aware of graduates who have got positions of power and caused much trouble as a result of their lack of wisdom - which is a quality no University can teach.

I had some further education - I trained in Dress & Design, and got a very good pass - when I then went into the working world (in Savile Row) I discovered that all I had worked so hard to learn was useless, and my experience is far from unique.  My husband has been in archeology since the early 1970s, on and off, is extremely experienced, and has been highly valued by much respected archeologists.  He is now working under young graduates with little field experience, who frequently seem unable to recognise the difference between naturally disturbed soil, and evidence of human occupation. He is seeing destruction of evidence and appalling archeological practice of all sorts, but he is not listened to because he has no degree, and the bosses all do. The work is paid for partly from public funding, as was the education of those who run the company - in my view, and all-round waste of public money.

At the same time as this is going on, old people and the disabled, who have limited capacity to improve their situation, no matter how willing, are seeing their support systems cut back, and their tax bills going up.  I hear 'It's not fair' from many of those protesting about increased University fees, well, I have news for you, life isn't fair, and the already privileged should not benefit at the expense of the weaker members of our society.  If you have a place at University, be deeply grateful, most of those who went before you in this world didn't have the chance - at any price.