14 November, 2010

Student Demonstration Shows the Way – Equal Access to Higher Education Irrespective of Means

Isn’t it strange? Papers like the Sun which have gloried in the bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who have never mentioned, still less condemned, British torture camps and the murder of civilians, have suddenly woken up to how terrible violence is when it comes to a few smashed windows in Millbank Tower! It is said that hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue but I can see precious little virtue.
And when someone threw an empty fire extinguisher down onto police lines – a stupid and idiotic action to be sure – the press were besides themselves. Presumably if they had dropped a few bombs instead, along the lines of the film on Wiki leaks which showed US aircraft firing on civilians, then they would have been heroes! But then again not, if the British state is the target.
The reality is that the so-called violence, as if the attacks on the Welfare State and Education isn’t a form of violence which will, for example lead to increased suicides, drug addiction and a spiral of hunger and homelessness, isn’t a form of violence. Because of course violence isn’t the objection but the fear that where the students lead today, others will follow in their wake. Hence the spluttered outrage of all the tax dodgers and upper-class criminals.
It was a Tory Government under Harold MacMillan in 1962 that legislated for the expansion of higher education in the wake of the Robbins Report. The Robbins Principle as it became known, encapsulated the idea that higher education should be accessible to all, irrespective of means. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/cabinetpapers/themes/robbins-committee-open-university.htm The government of the day accepted it and the 1964 Labour government under Harold Wilson implemented it, expanding higher education and creating new universities like Sussex and Essex.
Now we are ruled by Liberal free-market philistines who have completely cut all funding for teaching in the Humanities. The only purpose of education is to oil the wheels of capitalist production. The intrinsic virtue of learning and education in itself has been thrown out the door. The values of the bankers have been imposed on universities. The only good is in making money, not in constructing a civilisation. Yet people don’t visit Florence and Rome to marvel at money makers but the Renaissance and the values of an older society that produced beauty. Cameron and Clegg know only one artifact of beauty – money.
Graduates will be weighed down by enormous debt as fees balloon. Educational Maintenance Allowance for 16-19 year olds has been scrapped. The country’s welfare state and education system is being destroyed in order to bail out the bankers.
That is why I’m proud of my daughter Ellie and her friend Hanita, both graduates of Christ’s Hospital, who took part in the demonstration and occupation of Tory Party HQ. They aren’t the anarchists of the foaming tabloid writers. Quite the contrary. Hedonists would be a better description! But young as they are they know right from wrong. We are ruled by a government which, in the words of Oscar Wilde, knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
And if resistance is in the air then that to me is demonstrated by one of sons, Tom 13, who is also at Christ’s Hospital. Never particularly political he came back for leave weekend wanting to go on the anti-cuts demonstration in Brighton! Only his mother not waking him prevented that but, at the risk of self-indulgence, I take pride in the fact that our younger generation is waking up to the need to change society and that means not accepting the idea that ‘there is no alternative’.

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