It’s one o’clock in the afternoon. It’s a warm and sunny afternoon even though it’s the middle of October and I’m sat in the garden of the Royal Oak. It is, incidentally, also the middle of my Media Writing class.
And this is why I love my life. The life of a student/borderline alcoholic is not a particularly hard one. A cold pint of Guinness, a fresh made cheese and pickle sandwich and a few good friends eagerly working away at their own hypothetical articles for the National Student… my friend Liam has a broken arm and is describing the incident to Vic, who is being much more professional about the whole charade than I am. To my right Ben’s looking incredibly pleased with whatever he’s writing. I have to confess I’m much more relaxed about the whole thing.
I’m just enjoying it… enjoy it whilst it lasts… really savour the experience. Not just the Guinness… I mean the whole student thing. Being a student is great, it really is. I mean I imagine it’s probably a bit different for students on ‘proper’ courses. You see, I’m a Creative Writing student so I can make something up about drinking being part of life experience and life experience fuelling creativity… a science student… well, that would be different. They have facts to learn and what have you… don’t get me wrong, we learn facts in Creative Writing too, but quite often those rules get broken in a foggy haze of lunch inebriation. But breaking the rules can sometimes work… I think this is going reasonably well, for example… and this is, even for an opinion/lifestyle piece, far too conversational. There is a point coming though… this is just the set up… the context. It doesn’t have to be this long, but I want to really convey here just how easy and carefree my life is. I want you to admire and envy the renegade manner in which I live my life…
That’s the point here… the degree to which I love my life. I have an immeasurable affection for it… I love it more than disaffected teenagers love wearing identical fringes and black clothes in uniform non-conformity… I love it even more than I love slightly outdated metaphors…
I learnt somewhere that repetition can often be a tool in media writing to really make your point. So here we go again: I love my life. And I love all these experiences (apart from that one time with this girl and… uh… never mind…) Being a student is a strange and important time in a person’s life. I don’t personally think that higher education is for everyone. There are many flaws in our education system; specifically the emphasis on testing, academic achievement and performance over actually learning… and the test-centric nature of academia doesn’t work for everyone. It doesn’t work for me. I’ve failed many tests, and I’ve been lucky to fumble my way through life and get on to a course where the emphasis is on creative assessment.
So higher education isn’t necessarily for everyone. However, I passionately believe it should be an option open to everyone, not one human being excluded. That is to say, academic doors shouldn’t slam shut in your face because of your class… social status… wealth… Education should be free: it is a social service.
Oh, but why should I, the taxpayer, bankroll education? What do I get out of it?
Why should non-smokers pay tax for NHS funded ant-smoking programs? Why should taxpayers without cancer help fund chemotherapy? Why should law-abiding citizens pay taxes to keep prisons running? To keep police on the street? To fund schools?
Because we ALL benefit is why. We as a society benefit from having educated people running around. We need educated people to educate children, to keep our streets relatively safe, and in some cases try and keep us alive.
More importantly it’s because education should NOT be a business as it has been since Labour introduced tuition fees. And now Cameron, our great and glorious leader, is hell bent on completely destroying any notion that education is a universal right… raising insurmountable barriers to keep state educated drunks likes myself out of higher education.
My life of boozing, watching old sitcoms and occasionally knocking out a half-baked essay comes at a price. If I manage to graduate I will do so with the grim spectre of £20,000 of debt and the knowledge that we’re in the middle of the worst recession since the 1970s, print media is dying a slow and painful death whilst online media is now essentially nothing more than the half-witted ‘Tweets’ of idolized non-entities and attractive-yet-talentless actresses.
But it’s just about a price worth paying to do a degree I love. To spend three years hanging out with people I love. To live a satisfying, carefree existence which, aside from being painfully single and alone, is as close to total happiness as I can remember since Spurs beat Chelsea in the League Cup final. You can’t put a price on happiness. You can, however, put a price on education…
The Conservative government have decided that price should now be £7,000. A year.
I’m sorry, but screw that. My happy life isn’t worth seven grand a year. It’s not worth the miserable life I’d lead afterwards, carrying the debt with me almost to the grave.
Apparently they’re also going to make degrees two years instead of three. Let me tell you why that’s a bad idea and why a £7,000 a year, two year degree makes no financial sense.
Usually the price of something goes up according to its value. For example, oil. The more oil we as a civilization use the more it costs. It makes sense. But what the Conservative government intend to do is raise the price of a degree by more than half per year, whilst degrees are becoming increasingly worthless. More people than ever have degrees and they’re of little value now in the job market.
Meanwhile, as previously stated, we’re in the middle of the worst recession since the 1970s… so here we have Cameron’s education production line pumping out little graduates every twelve months with crippling debts they’re going to need a job to pay for. But jobs are scarce and the debt is incredible. We have a major, major problem with debt in this country. Smart move Dave, let’s create a generation of financial cripples.
And you better believe that more universities will open. Any chicken shack that can pass itself off as an academic institution will open its doors and start pumping them out.
But what’s the alternative? Well, the alternative is we just accept that all but the wealthiest of society have been priced out of education until we get to a point where Eton and Oxbridge inbred toffs reign over the land whilst the rest of us make up a sort of dim-witted Dickensian underclass ever ready and willing to be bend over and allow ourselves to be screwed until the last copper penny falls out of our pockets and our intestines start to bleed…
Never mind that we didn’t even vote this government in. Unless a party gets a 51% majority at the polls we have a situation where the elected government is formed by a united minority. That is to say, more people voted for Labour and the Lib Dems than voted for the Tories. The First past the post system is a twisted parody of democracy. We have a coalition government. Tories and Lib Dem.
I’m sorry; I didn’t see that option on the ballot? Did you? Was that a choice? No, no it wasn’t.
And here’s a horrible truth that’s going to hurt you, dear reader. Assuming of course you are a student… you’re not going to like this. You’ll try and argue, but you’ll be wrong. Are you ready?
The Tories being in power is your fault.
Oh yes, I’m afraid so. The Tories didn’t even have enough of the vote to win the election in a system where you don’t need much more than 35% to win. They only got in because they formed an alliance with the Liberal Democrats and that was only possible… that was only a viable option because of you, the students, and your naïve belief that Clegg and Cable were on your side.
Oh oh, you should, like, um, vote for the Lib Dems because, uh, they’re on our side and they’re going to scrap tuition fees. You, uh, you know how you think education should be free? Well Clegg and Cable… they’re… they’re going to make it happen man. You should definitely vote for them. I’m going to tell everyone on Facebook that I’m voting yellow on election day and I’m like, going to invite all my friends and we can all go and vote for the Lib Dems and make a difference, y’know. You know we have the oldest democracy in the world? Yeah, well I’m going to be um, all politically active and I’m going to use my vote! I’m going to make a difference!
Stupid faux-politicized students and their weak imitation of the way Obama mobilized the youth vote. Stupid naïve kids who still, after Blair, Bush, Brown… who still don’t get how politics works.
It was great when it was announced the Lib Dems, instead of scrapping tuition fees, were going to be part of the government that’s going to raise them over double. It was great just being on Facebook and seeing all these kids who’d spent so many status updates showing support for Clegg griping about the tuition fee business. Bitterly sarcastic status and passive aggressive Tweets… shock and surprise…
I mean really? Did you really believe that guy was on your side? You’re not at all familiar with the whole phenomenon of… um… power corrupting and all politicians lying?
Maybe this generation will learn a lesson from this, although it’s coming at one hell of a cost. An expensive lesson… guess we better get used to them…