| I confess: I bought my degree

Even if you don’t pay tuition, you should stand in solidarity with those who do

We are all a part of a flawed education system, one that turns education into a commodity that must be bought and traded on a market. We condone current policy by our very presence here – even if we are doing so now in order to change the system later.

Sentiments like Matthew Kassel’s (“My Café, my memories,” Commentary, October 14) are a perfect example of the way in which most of us are blindly complicit in perpetuating inequality in university education as a whole, and at McGill more specifically. This is true whether you pay your own tuition or your parents pay it, whether you are from a working-class family or your parents make over six figures.

We tell ourselves: it’s not my hardship, it’s not my problem, it’s not my reality – quod erat demonstrandum, I don’t have to care about it.

By perpetuating our own deliberate ignorance, we are not absolved of our role in a system that consistently disadvantages people who will never enjoy as much privilege as we do. Continuing to be blithely unaware of our role in the system can only make us look foolish.

Self-awareness is one of the most important lessons we take away from our university education. Ignorance regarding our place in the broader system is complicity.

And apathy is collusion. If we enjoy a privilege, we have an obligation to serve others in the pursuit of the same opportunities – whether they choose to do so through “appropriate” channels (education) or not. Ultimately, we have a responsibility to put forward the idea that self-worth is not and should not be contingent upon a university education – even if we have one.

By simply choosing to participate in our education as bystanders, rather than taking a more active role (by engaging in debates such as this one, or by participating in student politics) we are disadvantaging ourselves, and those outside of the system.

Failing to recognize that the broader systemic issues facing our university are part and parcel of our education is failing to become truly educated.

Education is more than the name “McGill” on our degrees, which are ultimately just pieces of paper that signal potential employers to the fact that we played the education game and won. It is the development of self-awareness and civic responsibility – of collective consciousness.

We should stop pretending. We should care and we should fight. When tuition goes up for our fellow students, for example, we should all be up in arms, because education should be regarded as a right, and not as a commodity. Our collective voice cannot be ignored. But before we can speak collectively, we need to realize our role in the system as a whole, and agree on a strategy to begin dismantling it, one issue at a time.


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