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Fight-back: Video

from Edward Fullbrook

A major economic policy of the United Kingdom’s new (spring 2010) coalition government is to drastically reduce government investment in higher education. As economists we sometimes forget that economic policies ultimately require political feasibility.  An obvious consideration behind the UK government’s decision to target young people wanting higher education is the reputation of today’s youth – and this generally holds true worldwide – of being catatonically apathetic about social ethics and political issues.  This and the facts that they have no effective lobbyists, no large campaign funds to withdraw, no money for advertising, and no media ownership makes them in politicians’ eyes easy prey for the new austerity economics.  Even so, the UK government has decided to play it ultra safe.  The legislation pending before its parliament – and it almost certainly will pass – exempts current university students and those beginning next year, thereby presumably eliminating them as possible resistors. 

But things are not working out quite like the UK’s political establishment planned.  It may turn out that in the longer run their neoclassical inspired economic policies lack the political feasibility that they – and nearly everyone left, right and centre – had presumed.  Students, including large numbers of pre-university ones, have in the past two weeks mobilized for large public demonstrations in cities across the UK.  A few months ago no one thought this was possible. Naturally the lobbyists and media owners, faced with what is now a seriously growing intrusion on their influence, are furious.  Moreover, increasingly there are reasons to believe that this may prove to be neither a mere seasonal phenomenon nor one confined to the UK.  There are signs that the generation currently coming of age is gearing up for a fight-back against plutonomy.  If you ever despair about the future of democracy, then watch this four-minute video.  It, rather than the Murdochs’, could be the voice of tomorrow.     

  1. Jorge Buzaglo
    December 4, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Yes! There is hope!
    We need an international Fight-Back movement. We are being reduced to (debt-)slavery.
    Thank you Edward.

  2. s h a r o n
    December 4, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    In most areas of the developed world, compulsory schooling is the norm. It is my belief that compulsory schooling breeds few critical thinkers. In fact, compulsory schooling (you, the “learning” environment) consists almost exclusively of “Sit down, shut up, turn to page xx to yy) read, then answer the questions as the end of the chapter(s)–which questions have only one right answer. Then, testing, testing, testing–which tests are primarily structured to enable/facilitate grading, grading, grading. Finally, a young person who has dutifully followed the regime’s guidelines, will pass from one grade level to the next, and come out the other end with the magic diploma. In post-secondary environments, little is different, although the image and culture of those learning environments are thinly disguised versions of the K-12 schooling. Worse, while the appearance of “choice” and self-motivated learning is everywhere, it cannot be denied that students of every post-secondary institution are there for the magic degree and letters after their name.

    Upon emerging into the “real world”, the tools for critical thinking about anything are either rusted or non-existent; in fact, the pursuit of business/academic cache and credibility supposedly leading to and ensuring a higher income is all there is.

    The environment of “make me learn” and the accolades and prestige of academic rewards leaves little room or motivation to hone–let alone learn–critical thinking skills. Further, this kind of ubiquitous academic motivation leaves us (however you wish to define/constrain that word) with folks who cannot seem to DO anything; don’t know how to build anything or fix anything, don’t care about the challenges and responsibilities (and rewards) of citizenship and active participation in the shaping of policy.

    That some students, as Edward has pointed to, indicate an emergence of critical thinking, is gratifying; but consider also, the rush of empowerment they must feel in engaging in something purposeful and meaningful, and for which no “grade” or degree will be issued, but rather will either make a difference or not. The potential for the former has got to be a rush, and a continued motivation to throw off the chains of the make-me-learn/make-me-do it mindset that shackled them in their K-12/early college years.

    The world cannot wait for young citizens in compulsory learning environments to feel empowerment within themselves for active “sought” learning, and for the self-assessment of the result of their own efforts–it either “works” or doesn’t, the sides of the box they make either meet or they don’t, the engine runs smoothly without knocking or backfiring…well, you get the picture.

    We could experience what Jorge, above, calls “hope” as well as confidence in our own young people to examine their environments–either in the shop or in their understanding of their citizenship–as active, empowered members and shapers of their own city, country and the real caretakers of the earth–by promoting “does it work” self-assessment and critical thinking skills starting in the very earliest years.

  3. Pandora
    December 4, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    I’m forwarding this to my 13 yr old daughter. She is an 8th grader in a Montessori intermediate school and is currently working on a debate. Her group in class chose the topic “Global Capitalist Systems” to debate and she will be taking the side that it is “unfair.” She is learning to become a critical thinker and to realize that kids her age do have a voice in their communities and the world. I love it!

    • s h a r o n
      December 5, 2010 at 4:00 am

      Pandora, you have made my day. I would love to know the details of your daughter’s group debate. I would be gratified to learn what her group has come up with, and the groups’ assessment of the debate.

      Let us carry on…!

  4. December 5, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Read in the Morning Star at the weekend that Greek students protesting about their austerity govt also proclaimed themselves in solidarity with UK students in their struggle. This may be the beginning of the beginning.

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