Friday, 26 November 2010

another brick in the wall or please don't feed the tigers

Columnist Laurie Penny of the New Statesman sends a dispatch from the latest round of student protests in England against tuition rate hikes. This anger follows demonstrations in Germany and many other European countries where budgetary shortfalls, real or imagined, and austerity measures, imposed or voluntary, have undermined the ideal and priority of the equitable promotion of a literate society.  This is something worth fighting for and the students' efforts from Dublin to London to Paris to Bamberg and all points beyond and in between are valiant and should not go unnoticed or unheeded.

For those outside of the European education system, and not counting only those laureates and their families who have been direct benefits because the whole society benefits, the nominal tuitions and selective admissions process might seem unfamiliar: it amazes me that the approach to education in the States compared to the rest of the world could have diverged so greatly, on the one side, merit-based and underwritten by the state and on the other prohibitively expensive and undiscerning where even public universities are run for-profit through the Ponzi scheme of student loans and financial aid, which seems likely to be the next bubble to burst, and not to mention overcrowded, unrealistic and generally unremarkable in all disciplines. Perhaps thinking such targets of budget cuts would be forgivably (or forgettable) unpopular, politicians have been unprepared for the backlash, especially in England and Ireland, where rescue-loans from the EU and the IMF came with too many strings attached, and putting university fees on the line was one way to portend fiscal balance. This sort of sacrifice, however, is unwelcome and ill-advised, like the tragedy that will be facing Iceland--again over finances--when the next generation is forced to leave over lack of opportunity. Tripling tuition will have the same effect, leaving one's native landscape diminished and becoming more like the university system of America in price and quality, and that kind of collateral is on terms that no one can afford, regardless of their credit-worthiness.