Tuesday, 23 November 2010


It seems typical of the instrumental thinking on both sides of the divide, this. That students are getting their future stolen; that increasing of tuition fees and the cutting of teaching budgets will consign a huge number of young people to impoverishment. The logic is that increased tuition fees and cuts in money for teaching of the humanities will prevent a whole generation (or more) of graduates from getting the well paid jobs that will enable their children to go to university to get qualified for the the well paid jobs, so that their children will not go to university and get the well paid jobs etc. 

It seems to me that the problem is "well paid jobs". It is not outrageous that not everyone goes to university - it is outrageous that not all jobs pay a living wage. For all the talk of the older generation, who benefited from a free higher education pulling the ladder up after them (which is true), we are missing the  point that there should not be a "ladder" in the first fucking place. It's like talk of the "housing ladder", or "starter homes", implying that it is just a beginning and that one will move onwards and upwards. A human right (shelter) is not a stepping stone. A system that treats it as such will need fodder for the increasingly finely shod foot to step on, to keep it clear of the mire; the grateful backs of those who are touchingly grateful even to be allowed to breathe.

If we accept that the best (the best paying) jobs are only accessible via a degree (and, who knows, an MA or PhD next), then we are accepting that university is simply a training ground for young professionals who, in addition to their qualification, build up an address book of contacts to help them on their way. That is the way that the bourgeoisie have always worked. Then, of course, the university is seen as a panacea for social ills, lack of mobility etc. If, on the other hand, we maintain that all jobs should be decently paid and that decent public housing is a universal right,  then it might be reasonable to frame the debate in terms of education as a good in itself, which I believe it is.

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