the youth are in the streets!
Education is without doubt under attack. Under this tory government (some of whom call themselves “Liberal Democrats” though this seems to be a meaningless term now) we have seen a trebling in tuition fees, the abolition of EMA and huge cuts to education establishments including universities.
Whilst the government blames the deficit and Labour’s overspending, we should not let ourselves be deluded by these crude and foolish lies. All these initiatives are part of an ideological attack by the capitalist class. This is part of a process of transforming education, making it less about students and more about profits. This can clearly be seen in the ways in which the cuts have been implemented, with arts and humanities particularly attacked as they are not considered “economic priorities”.
The government is trying to make university a service to be bought and sold, rather than an inherent right that all humans deserve. This can already be seen in the way students are treated more and more as customers, seen in the language of the student loans company and their obsession with the “customer reference number”.We are buying training and a degree that will allow us then to go on and make more money for ourselves.
This is where the idea of university acting as solely a way to benefit the self comes in. This is flawed in three ways. Firstly, whilst graduates do make more money than non-graduates, it is the businesses who employ graduates that are making the real money. They require graduates’ skills and training to function properly and to make a profit. In the end the capitalists need students more than the students need them. Secondly, this concept is clearly becoming rapidly untrue. After graduating students find it immensely difficult to get a job, graduate or otherwise.
With a youth unemployment rate of 20% it is simply untrue that graduates have more secure employment prospects for when they graduate; which only exacerbates the anxieties and fears of leaving university with 30k debts. Thirdly, and perhaps most crucially, this idea claims that education is just a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. Education should be about the development of the individual. The creation of thinking, informed and contented beings; not the drones to maintain profit margins.
Whilst the rise in fees and cuts to education are the most blatant attacks upon education, this process was already underway, and had been before the entrance of the tories into government. The already existing culture of education is a product of the capitalist world, feeding and perpetuating it. From primary school to university the education system trains young people to know their place under capitalism.
The systems of curriculums and the authoritarian nature of the teacher, they who control discipline and knowledge, prepares people for the labour market; where management must be obeyed even if the tasks they set seem pointless or nonsensical. The more one respects this authority the further one is able to progress in the education system, allowing them to reach for the higher up jobs, at least those not taken up by nepotism and elitism. Whilst it is true that education encourages some amount of critical thinking it still remains within the narrow boundaries set up by education. For instance we are encouraged to be critical in our exams, but if we are critical of exams themselves and reject them we are punished; both by formal disciplining as well as through poor grades.
What then is the solution to these problems? How can we create a new education under current conditions? A key part of this must be taking control of education ourselves. We should reject management control over what courses or modules are taught according to what is profitable, creating our own courses upon that which interests us.
This is not a radical proposal, it simply suggests that it should be those who are in education who decide how it is run. On top of this, it is imperative that students fight the cuts to education and the hike in fees. By forcing the state to pay for our education it means we can maintain our independence from financial forces that the bourgeoisie would apply to control us. Of course this must be twinned with a fight for more equality in society in general, making sure that those who are richest pay the most in tax and that other services and benefits are maintained, for it would be impossible to access university if you have to work to keep food on the table.
However at the end of the day under capitalism whatever victories we achieve the Bourgeoisie will assault, trying as they do, to bleed everything good and decent in the name of profit; a process that is all too obvious now. Any victory we achieve will therefore always be assaulted unless we address the main issue at hand, that of how we can abolish capitalism and its excesses from enslaving humanity. Already the fight has begun, the movement inspired by the Sussex occupation is spreading, we must hope it takes root here.
By Dave L, LUU Revsoc