I am a student. I am also a mature student living off site. This puts me into a small and unrepresented minority at my university. As such no one asked me about my opinion on yesterday’s protest. Even if they did I don’t think they would have liked the answer.
I don’t condone violence and yesterday the NUS, and the teachers and lecturers who supported them, got the march wrong. There has been a growing tendency for protest marches, which have lost their impact and purpose these days, to become cover for groups of people who wish to create a violent and destructive atmosphere. The NUS should have known it would be used as a cover for more aggressive, radical and reactionary groups and taken steps to present a way of dissociating themselves from the vandalism. A simple statement from Aaron Porter will not be enough to give some credibility back to the thousands of students with genuine worries. I would question Mr Porter’s naivety here.
There is another reason why students got it wrong. There is so much wrong with the concept of education in this country that a bunch of kids, who on the whole will leave university and command better salaries than their contemporaries without them, complaining that they have to pay for a privilege and a leg up in the world that far more people go without, smacks of immaturity and whining.
Education was established along exploitative lines and in many regards it still is. Education is a political football, with the policies designed to appeal and target voters and not the chief stakeholders, the kids. Education accounts for 12% of our total state expenditure, but it is something that we have still not got right, and we still fail to give some of the children in this country the education we claim they are entitled to. The concept of free education is not one that is universal in this country, so why should people who could be earning, and will go on to earn more than the national average, get a benefit, an inequality at the expense of others? Wouldn’t that money be better of spent on social housing, more hospitals?
But the real reason the students got it wrong is because they do not have an answer. There hasn’t been an ideal solution proposed by anyone and as such, to complain about an issue but to be unwilling to even begin to solve it is not only immature, but it is socially irresponsible.
It’s an embarrassing and thoughtful day to be a student, because by will and by intellect we have become a part of the welfare culture and we have chosen to react by allowing ourselves to be painted as unreasoning animals. We live in age when there is a real opportunity to create change over time, using the tools that have stopped us in the past against those who have been resisting; PR, legal, communications, advertising, viral campaigns. If a huge number of UK citizens can be conned into thinking that X Factor is entertainment then I have every hope that they can be encouraged to see that there are better ways of doing things; and as supposedly some of the brightest, enthusiastic and progressive parts of our society this is where students should lead the way.