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.  

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