I was surprised I hadn’t heard anything about the Free Education Demo that took place in London last week before they happened. I was also surprised when I was reading some of the placards and hash tags and didn’t feel completely in agreement with some of the messages and tweets I saw attached to it. In case you’re wondering I do not affiliate with any political party and this will read as a very simplistic and indecisive view point on political action. I am rusty when it comes to writing about this kind of thing but wanted to get my view point out there and also wondered how other people feel about vandalism/violence in demonstrations or whether demonstrations are worth it at all?
“In my day”
I attended the 2010 protests against higher tuition fees (“No way £9K”, “no ifs, no buts, no education cuts”, “Nick Clegg shame on you! Shame on you for turning blue!” etc). I consider myself very lucky to have been under the old £3K system and have witnessed friends, family and prospective students pass up the opportunity of higher education because of this fee increase. I don’t blame them for this and I don’t see it as a failure but it is sad that my siblings at least have yet to sample what it is like to get out of a small town and start learning in an amazing environment full of diverse and interesting people.
I read recently in the news about the newest £9K fees system being unsustainable (DUH!) But I was annoyed that the subsequent demonstration for ‘free education’ had a misleading and inaccurate hash tag. I know this isn’t something we can control and I think it’s great when people use online platforms to have their views heard. However it doesn’t require that much thought and can sometimes come across as ‘slacktivism’. I found myself reading tweets and wondering whether in fact online platforms can lead to the dilution of an otherwise important and powerful message which in this case is that everyone should have fair access to education, education is a right and not a privilege.
As far as I am aware, despite the hash tag people attending or following the demonstration don’t want education to be free, they want it to be accessible to all.
I think that although everyone should have the option of university it’s not necessarily the right move for everyone. I think the lack of an obvious and accessible plan B for after A levels or college means that people opt for university and don’t always know what they are getting into.
I don’t come from an NUS affiliated university, neither do I know that much about them but this article goes as far as to criticise them for their views and actions on this (apologies it is a ‘tab’ article)
In addition to a dodgy hash tag I saw people were also praising Russell Brand (again) and name dropping him via placards and what have you. Sometimes I think if people form their views on this topic based on what a celebrity says their opinions can have a pretty weak foundation… I think it’s good when topics are bought into people’s consciousness but *insert rant about how problematic Russell Brand is*
‘You do not represent me’
In reading further tweets I also discovered that yet again some absolute geniuses though it would be good to deface some property as well.
I can’t identify with the people who wear masks and decide to deface things when they go to these protests or demonstrations, and I guess that’s the point of them wearing the masks but when it comes to education I don’t see what place anyone has in the UK to get aggressive, violent and destructive about it. I also don’t see what it achieves.
I could suggest that violence or vandalism can totally invalidate or nullify a movement’s ideology. Perhaps it just seems to taint it because of how these actions are reported by the media? As is what happened with the Conservative HQ in 2010* – the media jumped on it and decided the protests had descended into idiocy which meant many people wrote off the students who attended as idiots.
*There was also NO security around that area which actually left it open to destruction, which I think could have been done on purpose.
People were also seen at this demonstration tearing down fences at Parliament Square … I just don’t think it is as powerful as people’s voices! I just don’t think people see social change as accessible. I certainly wouldn’t know where to start wanting to change some of the things I witness in education.
“Hijacking” of causes doesn’t just happen when it comes to single protests though… I recently read an article by Julie Bindel about how Feminism isn’t what it should be anymore. I don’t know much about her but I do know that she has some problematic opinions too. But it illustrates the point that not only can a protest or demonstration lose it’s way or message but so can an entire movement…there are so many layers to that article though.
This is obviously a very brief round up of a very complex issue. It is actually getting increasingly difficult for to me to write in this blog, I don’t have a lot of time on my hands and making sure I sound sort of intelligent or original does take more research. But then again this is only meant to be an occasional thing. This has taken me several attempts to put together and I’m still not totally happy with the post but everything would sit in ‘drafts’ if I avoided clicking ‘publish’ for everything I write that I’m not happy with.
If you were actually at the demonstration I’d be interested in your take on things