Friday, 10 December 2010

Student fees, demonstrations and all that...

I'm a child of the 60s one of the last of the baby boomer generation, my parents lived through the war, my Dad didn't get called up as he was in a prescribed occupation - i.e. working in the dockyard but he was considering volunteering just as the war ended. My Mum was just too young for service as she only left school just at the end of the war. I imagine with their background and general political persuasion that they were exactly the kind of young people who really welcomed the 1946 social welfare revolution with the NHS, Welfare and of course the education reforms that led to the explosion of the universities in the 60s.

When I left school university was free in terms of fees and it was a grant not a loan. I sort of flunked my A levels a bit, too much time thinking I was going to get my band off the ground and that worldwide stardom was but a few odd timing licks and suspended chords away - but Rush had cornered that market. Anyway I did go to college locally and it didn't cost me or my parents a penny.

So that's the background - to the point. Should students pay for their education? It grates against me a bit that they should have to - however if that payment is in some form of very cheap long term loan that they only pay back when they are earning enough and the payments are pretty much as low as possible then is that so bad? Some of the things in the new proposal I much appreciate - the removal of means testing, I never get why a rich pensioner or someone over 60 still in employment can get winter fuel allowance, free bus passes etc. when an 18 year old who has never earned a penny has the level of their maintenance payment based on what their parents earn! If means testing is appropriate there why not the elderly? Oh yes pensioners vote, many young people don't. So I was pleased to see that gone.

£9000 is that too much? I don't know. What I do know is that the politicians have no idea about life around many kitchen tables in the UK. When kids grow up hearing Mum and Dad saying things like "Can we get the £200 for that school holiday?", "We can't afford a holiday this year", "The washing machine will just have to wait we haven't got the cash"... etc. then they minister says - "It's only about £40,000 of debt you shouldn't worry" Cloud cuckoo land!

However the protests have now gone over the top - the level of violence and what is being fought for is being lost. Why this level of violence, feelings or betrayal, feelings of inequality or that noone will listen.

The things that strike me...
  • A pledge is a pledge - look up the definition. If you shouldn't have made it tough then you have to accept that mistake but stick to your pledge, or go back to the electorate and have a set of byelections with a new manifesto.
  • The violence is a small minority, I wouldn't be surprised if the ring leaders of that have been no nearer a university entrance than I have.
  • The issue will cloud over many other massive injustices being done to the young people of this country - removal of EMA, in my local area many services for under 16s (Medway Childrens university as one example) are simply being scrapped overnight.

So what is really important here to everyone in this country is that we need a generation of young people who want to be here, have belief and passion in this country and it's economy. When I get to bus pass age I know I need people in work paying the taxes that will pay for those privileges of me - there is no insurance scheme I pay into and my money is held for me the workers of today pay for the young and the old and the infirm of today - always have always will. We need people who will do all that for people like me in 20 years or so.

Government, councillors, everyone - re-engage the young people of this country now... to not do so puts this country in greater peril than anything else.

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