Friday, December 10, 2010

Educating the Masses: London Burns

It was a rough day in London yesterday. Now, I'm not going to pretend that I know everything (or for that matter ANYTHING) about British politics. Most of my knowledge of UK politics comes from British comedians and The Bugle podcast (with one of my all time favourites, Andy Zaltzam. Check it out!).

So, this is what I gather. In the wake of a coalition government being elected (sorta) to run things, something went horribly wrong. Two completely opposing parties somehow shook hands and decided to work together. These are the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats. Okay. I'm writing this more to get things straightened out in my own mind as opposed to trying to give anyone else info. So, Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats ran on a platform of no new university fees (roughly. Please, someone correct me if I am wrong with any of this). So, this platform went down well with students, so, they voted for him. Then he became part of the grand coalition and changed his mind, thinking it wasn't such a good idea after all. Now, of course the world has been in a bit of a financial mess for the past few years and governments everywhere are trying to cut back on spending. This coalition that is running things in the UK is taking this idea to heart and going nuts with their cuts, by the looks of things.

So, yesterday, it was decided that tuition fees would rise from roughly 3000 of those pound things to somewhere around 9000 of those pound things. Now, that is one heck of a crazy increase if you ask me. Apparently this doesn't have to be paid right away. Very nice of them. This is paid back once the grad gets a job that pays enough to be able to get them deep into debt paying this cash back. At least this is what I'm garnering. Cuts to university budgets also seem to be going through which will cut the number of available seats in university classrooms by 6000. That's a whole lot of seats. Think of a game of musical chairs with 6000 seats? Less seats means less opportunity to get into a school that is getting increasingly harder to afford. This just doesn't sound very good all around for students.

And there have been protests. Oh have there been protests. Lots and lots and lots of protests by some very angry students. And rightfully so, although some of the violence that has gone along with it hasn't gone over well with the British public, understandably. Last night, when the vote went through to approve all of this stuff, things got pretty heated...literally. People lit fires. Well, mostly because they were cold. But, there were fires none the less. And vandalism. Even poor Charles and Camilla had their car dented up a bit. That wasn't overly cool. It was a nice car! Students battled with police, horses were involved and, according to angry callers in the BBC, Christmas shopping was interrupted in some places. Tragedy.

Why should these students be protesting? That's easy. Here is why, based on my knowledge as a Canadian. I am going to do a bit of assuming that there are some parallels between Britain and Canada. We are both pretty common, what with, we have the same Queen. There.

My wife went through 8 years of university. Or more. I can't recall. I guess I could ask her. Anyway, we'll be paying off that education for the next 25 years (or less...or more. Again. I should ask her). Basically, a lot of money was spent and a lot of money is owed. Now, it's impossible to get a decent job WITHOUT a university education. Jobs that at one time only need secondary education now require college diplomas or university degrees. There are so many people looking for jobs, the competition is high, and without a good education, chances are pretty bleak. In addition, traditional jobs in manufacturing were shipped to countries where workers are paid far less meaning that there aren't jobs out there for those without an education, unless it is in the service industry. And what kind of future is that? If someone is living in London, Vancouver, Toronto or some other big city, how can they possibly do that on a McDonald's paycheque?? Then, add on to that, less and less companies are actually hiring people full time. They are preferring to go with contracts. That makes things pretty tough. Insecurity abounds. Education can relieve that. The more one can bring to a company, theoretically, the safer their job may be. Things have changed a lot even in the past 10 to 15 years. More and more, employers are doing what they can to circumnavigate involvement of unions and doing more and more to shed any responsibilities to their employees,, I think I'm getting off on a tangent here.

Anyway, the point is that if fees go up and cuts are made to education, meaning fewer seats for students (at least those that can afford it) opportunities will dry up even faster. More unemployment or underemployment because people can't get access to education? I can see that happening, for sure. That doesn't seem like it would help the economy of a country that is looking to improve it's economy. In fact, that sounds like it would do the opposite! Why create a situation where it may be even harder for people to get decent jobs?? Education is an investment. The better educated a nation is, the better off that Don't take away educational opportunities. That's like shooting yourself in the foot. Make sure people can get the education they need so that they can get to work and keep the economy going.

I'm sure I'm missing some points in here. There is plenty more to say. It seems like a very complicated and tough situation all around. I feel for the students. I support their protests. It would nice if stuff wasn't wrecked in the process, but that seems to be a small minority of people who are doing that stuff. So, keep up with it kids! Will it help. No, probably not. Sorry to end that on a negative note. Damn.  

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Double Edged Sword: 2022

Well, Qatar did it. Qatar put a bid in to FIFA to hold the 2022 World Cup, and today they were awarded the games over the US, Japan and, well, another loser who I can't remember.

I was fortunate enough to be down at the Corniche in Doha, the capital city where I am living, when the announcement was made. Well, I say fortunate, although at the time, I felt dumb. There were a few other location around the city that had giant screens for people to gather around to watch the awarding ceremony. I thought the Corniche was one of those places. I was wrong. There was no screen. So, I sat, in my car, looking out over the waters of the Persian Gulf and listened to Al Jazeera on the radio waiting for the announcement. There were very few people around. It was pretty quiet. I was going to miss all of the excitement it seemed. Not a great move. Then, two minutes after the head FIFA-er announced that Qatar had won, the Corniche suddenly filled up with cars and a whole lot of very, very excited Qataris. Boy, were they excited. Horns honking, flags waving, music playing, laughter and joy all around. I had never seen revelry in Qatar, let alone this amount. People were having a really great time. I mean, a REALLY great time, driving around, honking, waving, and being open, warm and friendly! It was impressive and fun and I'm glad I was there when it happened. I headed home as streams of people were heading in. I think the festivities will go on for an awful lot of fun.

HOWEVER, tomorrow will be a new day, and Qatar is going to face a lot of scrutiny and be in the center of a very powerful spotlight. It's going to be interesting to see how this goes down. Already twitter is alive with a whole lot of interesting comments. Let's take a look, shall we...

windoverwater #Qatar will expect all women to have shoulders and neck covered, no #tanktops ladies, sorry.

azewde #Qatar built its track & field team by naturalizing East African runners. Now they'll build their #2022 soccer team w/ West Africans #Quatar

@danlobb FIFA representatives will be very very very rich from announcing #Russia 2018 & #Qatar 2022 world cups.#howmuchdidyoupayRoman???

girlfriday19 Seriously tho, I understand ppl want to separate sports from politics, but end of the day, human rights issues are more impt. #Qatar #FIFA

vicki_dee Alcohol Laws of #Qatar: Public drunkenness, openly displaying alcohol in public are forbidden. ...Ummm, that #worldcup is gonna suck.

windoverwater #Qatar apparently has no tolerance for #homosexuals. Will be jailed on sight.

dawashington Does @FIFAcom hate gay soccer fans? ( #worldcup2022 #qatar

SeeDice #Qatar? Its as big as san francisco.

bisialimi And #2022 goes to ....... #qatar, now #fifa is a Joke, big time ... Lol

_nctrnl Boycott #FIFA World Cup in #Qatar 2022 Sign the Petition #WorldCup2022 #WC2022 #FIFAFail #Fail #EpicFail

msalgado Raise your hand if you think western women want to travel to a World Cup in Qatar! #nofuckingway #qatar #wtf

MegoSalbashian The only way for Qatar to play in the world cup is to buy the whole bid in 2022. #Qatar #Worldcup2022

jabmakepeace #QATAR #worldcupcorruption Interesting human trafficking report on QATAR -

nwskyles Fifa is crooked. #Qatar #WorldCup

GarethGeorge The 2022 #worldcup will 100% not happen in #Qatar. Not a chance, zip, zero. New vote within 5 years.

TheLazySalesman I'd love to see the #Qatar 'bid book', an index and 500 blank pages of Rymans finest Basildon Bond I reckon

markmravic Fiver: "the preposterously wealthy human rights- and women-abusing crackling furnace that is #Qatar."

peterkonnecke @insidethegames something stinks with qatar team seen congratulating each other before vote announced #fifa #qatar @worldcup

martywyss #Qatar does not meet humans rights standards of the UN and still has a form of slavery called sponsorship ... smart move #FIFA

ZacherMediaPR Cowherd on #Qatar: "People from Qatar vacation in Phoenix in August to cool off."

And it goes on and on and on. And, it's only four hours after the announcement has been made. Qatar isn't a fan of negative comments as it is, so I think some of the stuff that will be talked about in the media and online is going to be pretty hard for some Qataris to swallow.

As you can see by a number of the comments, already questions about migrant workers and human rights are being brought up. What more will come? Qatar is a pretty small country and it has gone largely unnoticed by much of the world. Everything is about to change, and with that change is going to come some heavy criticism, I think it is fair to say. How will Qatar handle it?

Qatar did a good job with it's bid presentation. It has the 2022 World Cup. Now it has a lot of work to do. It will be an interesting 12 years.