Education is supposed to enlighten the general public – especially in a democracy – and to empower them to live healthy and informed lives. Unfortunately, the reality of our school system today falls far short of these ideals.
Instead, the university system is a devious mechanism of social control. An education has become a highly effective mix of product and privilege. It is sold to the masses at such a high price that they are shackled in debt for the first and most creative years of their adulthood. At the same time, not all university educations are created equal, and those privileged few able to afford the highest tier are fast-tracked nearly automatically into positions of continued power. There are scholarships that allow for some amount of social mobility, but these are few enough that the wealthy ruling class remains firmly in control. With the tuition hikes that students face, we now find ourselves at the forefront of this issue.
To be fair, there is logic in the argument for tuition hikes: the diplomas that we are paying for will allow us to secure higher-paying jobs, if we choose to seek them out. In this way, going to university is an investment in ourselves, and it is unfair to ask the general public – which on average makes less money than we expect to – to subsidize us with their taxes. But this argument depends on student motivation generated by striving towards an elite class, and the reality of the existence of this elite has become a burden that we cannot support. It has become apparent that we need a different model. We can see it already. Austerity measures make life for the non-affluent more difficult, higher tuition makes social mobility a myth, and the empowered classes languish in their security. The very few and very bright are only allowed to move up from the lower classes through scholarships, and they do revitalize the upper class to some extent. However, their innovation is outweighed by the mass of the unmotivated rich, who cause our bureaucracy and management to bloat and stagnate. For a functional capitalism to exist, new ideas must have the chance to be developed and tested in the free market. This idea is called “free enterprise.” Unfortunately, it’s not actually free. It takes a huge amount of money to put new ideas into practice, and that money has to come from somewhere. In most cases, this money is held by the already wealthy, and this is a major force of stasis. These people have a vested interest in maintaining certain processes – the most problematic ones, such as fossil industries – because they own these industries, and continue to profit from them.
This is why a free university independent from industry and capable of investigations in self-determined directions is essential. This gives the much larger (and often more motivated) population access to the free market in the way that its creators intended.
With all the challenges facing our world, we need everyone’s input and ideas if we are to have a chance at building a sustainable future. Without this access, free enterprise is just a term used by irresponsible oligarchy that can explain away any need to tend to those less fortunate in terms of “equal opportunity.” In this light, allowing tuition increases is just another step towards a more corporate model of education. A patent factory where undergrads are only consumers and where graduate students are underpaid workers. We must stop these tuition hikes in their tracks, and we must change our schools of privilege into schools of freedom.
Alex Briggs is a U3 Engineering student. Please contact him with ideas and dreams at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Mob Squad is a horizontal assembly of students concerned with the issues raised in this piece, such as tuition rises and austerity, please contact them to help organize and resist at email@example.com.