Why I was at the Student Protests
by Beth Cherryman
I do not agree that education is a ‘right’. Actually, as I have talked about before, I do not think ‘rights’ are real tangible things that one can demand.
But, moreover, I do not think education is a privilege. I think it benefits society as a whole to have a population that has been taught to read, write and think independently. And if it happens that these skills seem to be only learned in higher education then it benefits society to send as many people to university as want to go.
Specifically I was demonstrating against the cuts to Humanities and Social Science subject departments, which undermine their value to, for and in society.
I was also demonstrating against raising tuition fees to £9,000 because instead of alleviating the financial trouble universities are in this raise is to compensate for teaching cuts. Further cuts to research, I assume, will have to be picked up by the university (at least for Social Science and Humanities departments).
My degree is a public good and as such the public should pick up the tab. It is not even the figures for me that are the important issue: it is the principle at stake.
When I have graduated I will pay my taxes, which will contribute to someone else’s university education. Progressive taxation means that the highest earning graduates pay back more in taxes than lower earning graduates. There is no reason to complicate things further with a new graduate tax.
In a wider context I believe higher education should be free and accessible to all. There should be no separate private schools. If people would like to make greater financial contributions to their children’s school, great, but the benefit should be shared out and help those pupils whose parents cannot make such contributions. Bring State schools up to the standard of private schools. Give everyone an equal opportunity to get a place at university – to get a place at a reputable university. I am not saying there should be no competition for places at institutions like Oxbridge, LSE, or Imperial, etc. but that the amount of money your parents have doesn’t determine your chances of getting into these institutions.
I realise it is hard to maintain equal opportunity. Parents who earn more are often happy to advantage their children in order to maximise their children’s chances of living comfortably and happily, for instance, sending them to a private school where there is almost a guarantee the children will leave with good grades. The situation exacerbates. The divide between rich and poor widens. Leveling the playing field doesn’t really matter because it will still be the case that some parents will be richer than others and the cycle can start all over again.
The current system does not work though and only breeds inequality. State schools are schools in name only. They merely baby-sit children so their parents can go to work. Teaching only the National Curriculum (national minimum) and how to pass the particular exam.
A person’s chance of getting into a top British university can be determined before they leave primary school. Many people who were cleverer than me in my classes at school are not at university because their parents were not as encouraging as mine, or the idea of just £25, 000 debt was enough to put them off (I wonder what a debt of £50,000 will do).
Take the onus off education as a business and value it as an intrinsic good. Not only does education benefit all of society, education is good in and of itself.