Friday, May 11, 2012

A Rational Take on the Student Protests

It is with great reluctance that I write this post, as I have done my best to avoid the topic of the student protests and the proposed tuition hike. My reason for doing so is simple; I’ve been met with mockery when trying to express myself, and my character has been called into question for thinking the way that I do. However, I no longer feel that I can bite my tongue.

I’d like to clarify that I in no way condone the extreme actions that some protestors have taken, and fully support the Montreal Police for doing what is necessary to enforce the law. I understand that crowd control is a daunting and challenging task, and I tip my hat to the men and women who are forced to do so each and every day. 

My issue is not the students themselves, nor is it with the government proposing the tuition hike (because let’s face it, tuition never should have been frozen in the first place), but rather the general public, the non-students, if you will.

It is amazing to me how fast some have forgotten what it is like to live on five-for-a-dollar Ramen noodles. The condescending comments that I have heard from individuals when discussing the student protests is absolutely appalling. It’s one thing to disagree with a cause, or the way in which its supporters go about expressing themselves, but it’s another thing entirely when all you can muster up is a little name calling. In fact, all this tells me is that YOU are the one in need of an education (and perhaps are bitter that you did not take advantage of the tuition freeze when you were young). 

To start, lumping every student together as a "spoiled brat", or most recently, a "terrorist", is a generalization that is entirely irresponsible. It is possible to support a cause without necessarily supporting every aspect of the means. It seems as though every student has become a “spoiled brat” and public enemy number one, simply for being a student who applied to university with a specific budget in mind, and who is now forced to scrimp and scrounge to make up the difference of an increase. If I stumble upon ONE MORE PERSON who uses the argument “these kids with their $500 Canada Goose Jackets and $400 iPhones  and fancy iPads and $10 Starbucks latt├ęs don’t know how good they have it”, I’ll lose my mind. First of all, why don’t you try forming your own opinion rather than regurgitating one you heard or read? Oh, that would require INDEPENDENT THOUGHT. Something it appears the general public is not capable of. 

Secondly, I do not have a $500 jacket, my iPhone was free with the Fido dollars I’ve accumulated over the past three years, and I make my own coffee each morning that I drink from my reusable Habs thermos (which was a Christmas gift from my sister, before you chastise me for the $10 that could have been allocated towards tuition). 

I’ve been told that the fact that I go to school full time, intern part time and hold a part time job, puts me in the minority as a “hard working” student. I’d like to see a report that details how many students are “spoiled brats” whose parents pay for everything and how many, like me, work extremely hard, sleep four hours a night, and pay for everything themselves. Not to mention the gray area in between. Regardless of this phantom statistic, I’d like to point out for the uninformed just how flawed the Quebec Loans and Bursaries program is. The fact that the government takes your parents income into account unless you’ve been self-sufficient for a minimum of two years is absurd. The fact that it doesn’t factor multiple children into this is equally absurd. Perhaps my father could afford to contribute towards my education, but he certainly can’t contribute to my education, as well as that of my two sisters, who are also currently pursuing post secondary education.

Thirdly, I find it extremely ridiculous to suggest that because a young person uses technology on a daily basis somehow implies that they are able to afford a significant tuition increase. I challenge these people to attempt to attend a university class without a laptop, and try to take notes. Lectures have been adapted to accommodate the rapidity with which students are able to take notes with a laptop as opposed to a pen and paper. Simply put, schooling has integrated technology in such a way that it has become a necessity, not a luxury.

Lastly, it blows my mind that someone would possibly use the example of “you don’t know how good you have it”. This is precisely the kind of thinking that impedes progress. Are these individuals of the belief that a woman in the United States should be content to not have the right to decide whether or not to carry her unborn child to full term simply because women in other countries can’t vote or are forced into a lifestyle with even fewer options? Should homosexuals fighting for marriage equality simply “be happy with the status quo” since their gay brethren in other parts of the world are executed for their orientation? While these are admittedly extreme examples, they make as much sense to me as the argument that students should just accept whatever they’re told. The purpose of education is to create free thinkers, people capable of forming their own opinions. It seems that this gets in the way of cramming society into that tiny little box it has created. 

What is my proposed solution? Increase tuition gradually over a longer period of time. Consider a tuition freeze on programs that train essential workers with low starting salaries, like teachers and nurses and social workers. More than anything, all I ask is for a little compassion and understanding from my fellow man before leaping to conclusions. While I understand that the general public is not entirely to blame, as the media’s biased coverage of the student protests makes it difficult for anyone to truly understand the situation. Remember that there are two sides to every story, and don’t take a story or a news report at face value. Do a little research. Inform yourself. Education doesn’t begin and end in an institution, but rather is something you can acquire for yourself each and every day with the tools readily available at your disposal. Perhaps I expect too much of people, as it has become more and more evident to me with each passing day that common sense isn’t all that common.

**DISCLAIMER: I sent the above post to several local publications, none of which would print it. I'm assuming it was far too rational, and not radically one sided enough for them to use. Another perfect example of biased journalism.


Margo said...

Here, here! Very well said, Robyn!

Sean said...

Couldn't agree more. No one THINKS before they speak.

Mark G. said...

You sleep 4 hours a niight?! That's too much! You should NEVER sleep. And work EVERY DAY. And you should be broke. And never eat the entire time you're in school. And you should LIKE IT. :P LOL

AuntieC said...

Statistics Canada reports 51% of Generation Yers between the ages of 20 and 29 live at home compared to 31% of the same age group of generation Xers. Also according to stats can, 43% of students between 18 and 24 report their parents have put aside money for their post-secondary education. Tuition paid by students is proposed to go from 11% to 17% of the total cost of post-secondary education. The government, through taxes from the population who works, primarily funds the remaining % unless you are in a research university/faculty that receives outside funding primarily intended for research. However, this is still only covering the small percentage of the cost of post-secondary education. The “general population” (I believe you have ironically lumped everyone else into the “general population” category thinking they have forgotten their own education and might be bitter?) actually might have spent copious amounts of time doing research on this issue before expressing their opinions. Their frustration and anger (and again, this is a possibility and not a generalization) might more likely come from their being focused on serious world events and unrest, atrocities, the personal affects upon them from other government cutbacks/spending (health, general education, other increases) that would actually warrant such protest. You might not follow the "condescending" stereotype that SOME of the "general population" have expressed... however have you looking into the backgrounds of the leaders of the 3 strongest student unions? That a group of students can have the power to “negotiate” is quite fascinating. What a pendulum shift when the students have more power to “negotiate” than the educators or the taxpayers.