Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Class War


Personally, I think university education should be free, if not for every student, then for those studying medicine or teaching. If necessary, the rest can get the same system of loans (rather than grants) that I got. Since, in theory, these people are going to be turning around and benefitting society in some way, then they should be supported by society (especially the teachers, nurses and doctors). An unpopular view, perhaps, but it's one I strongly believe in.
The British government have decided to further screw over the students of that country. This is not entirely unexpected, to be honest, as the UK university/college system is in a state of funding crisis, and something has to be done, or one of the best educational systems in the world will collapse. But I don't think forcing half the student population either into debt, or out of university altogether, is really the most sensible idea.
This article on the crisis enraged me, or rather one part of it did:
"...the key reason for the under-representation of working class students in higher education, particularly in prestigious institutions, is that few obtain the qualifications needed to apply..."

Now, to be fair, the author of the article does point out that if a working class background student does achieve the desired grades, they are "highly likely to go to university", and moreover that they will not be punished financially for going. But there's an age-old (in Britain, at least) class assumption being shown here, and that is that working-class people are thick. My Dad's a plumber, and my Mum is so unhinged that when she had a job, all she could hold down was cleaning. My uncle has done best for himself by getting into the funeral trade (and, it's whispered, the Masons), but he's the only one who could be considered non-working class. We're a working class family. We didn't have a bath for the first few years of my life, so we were allowed to go to the neighbours' house to use their bathroom. But at no point was it ever suggested that I couldn't go to university if I wanted to.
Since schooling is free in Britain, there's nothing stopping anyone from any background from getting good grades at school. Yes, schools in working class areas may have less money to spend on facilities and teachers, but that's no obstacle. My first school was still using slate and chalk when I got there.
I got decent grades (they could have been better, but sloppy marking ruined a lot of hopes for a lot of people that year), and put myself through university. I've ended up with a fine education, a great deal of pride in myself, but sadly a huge debt. Now those coming after me will be saddled with even larger debts, but I digress.
Working class people aren't stupid. They aren't lazy. Now perhaps that's not what the author of this article intended to suggest, but if so, make it clearer for Pete's sake.

I apologise for that. I try not to rant on here, but sometimes it can't be helped. I'm also annoyed that I've got one of those stupid colds that refuses to either go away, or develop into a proper runny-nose-and-sneezing cold that I can do something about.

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