December 1, 2010 3 Comments
“It Will Be a Long and Difficult Fight and it Will Be a Fight in Vain Unless We Fight Together, Shoulder to Shoulder-“
[8:30pm 30/11/10] That was an exerpt from the opening speech made today at the ‘The Attack on Education’ meeting at Bournemouth University; a meeting inspired by the events of the last few weeks regarding student protests over a proposed raise in tuition fees. Around 150 people (out of the estimated 16,000 students at Bournemouth University) attended the meeting today, to learn, discuss and advance their ideas among peers.
This group, needless to say-was a group with members all opposed to the proposed rise in tuition fees whenever they may be introduced, so the content of the presentation in this regard catered to the audiences needs. I must say I found it very surreal to be sitting in a lecture hall being blasted with rally material for two hours, regardless the speaker made his points with white words on a stark, black background that could do nothing but remind me of propaganda posters circa 1939; this aside I tried to focus on the content of the pitch and became wide eyed at the spectacle unfolding before me.
The first third of the presentation was not about student fees (a recurring theme during the two hours) but about the state of the British economy. (You can click on the image below to view the employment figures for the last 24 years) We are preached to how the Goverment would prefer to save banks than ‘people’, how the companies are too big to fail and it is us, the working man who has to pay for their mistakes; these are very valid points and I do believe their need to be highlighted-plus if the Government really did pay £1.8 trillion to bail out the banks, I am sickened. Also raised in the seminar was the point, do men and women who have graduated with the benefit of a free education pay back it’s worth by working full-time and contributing to the economy? This was a point raised in the open discussion which I will arrive at in just a moment but I would just quickly like to highlight what was shown in the second half of the meeting.
As time was runnning low for the presenters the first speaker opted out of two thirds of his speech, instead letting a colleague present what in essence was ‘How Rubbish England is Compared to the Rest of the World’. This presentation is a lot more open and less pressured; detailing how Skandinavian countries run free courses taught by industry proffessionals and how tution fees for most countries don’t even make up half of what we pay here in the U.K. I did notice however that the lecturer sourced his information from wikipedia, which provoked a cynical chuckle from me and my peers. Though the presenter finished strongly, quipping that according to current tax rates if we were to drink one more glass of wine a day we would not need the government cuts at all.
However I would like to also talk about the open floor discussions held; as this ended up overiding the main speakers presentations decending into cheap argument. Of course everyone is entitled to their freedom of speech (a right exploited by the student protests), but after an hour of cheap shots and sweeping statments I became very detached form the situation-dissapointed by what was happening in front of me. After the seminar I pondered as to how so many people with the same beliefs can be have such polar ideologies; saying this I do not want to digress but just to cover overall, what I think happened.
During the open floor debate there were a lot of interesting points made and I think that I learnt new things; the reservations I had though came from some sweeping statements made that i knew were completely falliable, and though examples escape me at the time of writing, lets just say there were a lot of ‘the government want to enslave us and harvest our organs’ theories going around. The excitement of an old man calling for revoloution was dulled by a pompous woman smelling a conspiracy; the spark of a young girl willing to learn, extinguished by passive ideologists waiting for their world vision to sail in. I must admit I got quite frustrated at the apparent lack of level headed, objective individuals who wanted to take on the matter in hand; as I said to my friend who was with me at the time ‘Everyone’s just making points about stuff, but no one’s making sense’. Though the one point that was not undermined by anybody was the notion that: ‘-we are fighting against the raise in tuition fees, when men like myself got our educations for free. Why fight for cuts, one day and then protest for something else the next? Rebel against everything.’
Overall I must say that going into the meeting I was very alligned to the student’s ideals and if there was more public information (a point raised) I would feel inclined to protest too; but having left and reflected I can’t help that feeling the majority of the body in attendance wanted the opportunity to fight against the Government and not perhaps, the laws it threatens to instate. I don’t wan’t to be overly pessimistic but should we as a student body want to be heard, we must be coherent and objective; which leads me nicely onto my ending quote, recited at the meeting yesterday on behalf of Tony Benn:
In an abandoned mining town, a boy falls down a old shaft. The townspeople gather around wanting to assist the boy; they dangle down the shaft a piece of rope-but it is too short. They find another piece of rope, but that too is too short; they then find a third piece of rope which again, is too short. ‘What will we do?’ Wonder the townspeople, before hearing the boy shout up from the bottom of the shaft ‘Why don’t you try tieing them all together!?’