“Education is everything”: why we should support free education
I’m proud to have recently proposed the motion ‘Should LUU lobby the government to ensure that their aspiration for higher education is that it is free?’, which can now be voted on in a referendum until 11th December.
Education is everything. If we’re still having to debate that at this stage then there will be no convincing some people, I know that. If some people honestly don’t believe there’s an alternative to the government’s narrative on austerity, then fine. I will say this though: we’ve created the NHS, we’ve cured disease and we’ve sent people into Space, so why can’t we we achieve free education for all? The question isn’t if we can do it or not, the question is how strong is our will to achieve it as a society?
We may not all be born equal, but education is an equaliser. Education is the best way to ensure that whatever circumstances you’re born into, you have the ability to achieve your potential. Surely the role of the state is to provide that opportunity for everyone, not just those who feel comfortable enough to take debt out against their futures because they’ll be more employable- a phrase I hate-as if that’s the only thing higher education is about.
Education is the best way to ensure that whatever circumstances you’re born into, you have the ability to achieve your potential. Surely the role of the state is to provide that opportunity for everyone?
When we recognised that our country was getting sicker, we created the NHS. When we recognised that our country was getting older, we made pensions our number one state expenditure. Now, having recognised that we live in a society where the select few have more than ever, and those without are feeling it like never before, something must be done to bring us together. We should take as much pride in providing education to all as a way of overcoming any inherited disadvantage as we do in providing healthcare to those who need it.
Education at all levels should be about more than the employability agenda. It should be allowing people to develop and reach their potential. We’re kidding ourselves if we’re saying that the problem is the level of debt rather than the idea of debt itself. My brother doesn’t want to go to University because he doesn’t want the debt. He’ll never get the experiences we’ve all had because he sees the barriers that so many people still see and will continue to see without free education.
This is about fighting for the voices we can’t hear because they aren’t on campus, even though they are desperate to be.
That is what this motion is all about. It’s for all my friends and family and yours. It’s for everyone who will never get the chance to write for a university newspaper or engage in a university debate because the concept of university is one they’ll never get to experience. I’m fighting for the voices we can’t hear because they aren’t on campus, even though they are desperate to be.
One thing that’s come out of this debate is that those who disagree with free education more often than not say that it’s “great if we could do it but it just isn’t realistic”. It’s a fair point to say that it’s not going to be an easy thing to achieve, but more countries in Europe have it than don’t. Germany have it. Italy have it. Denmark have it, and the Danes have the third lowest economic inequality in the World as a result. Other than my desire for us to all be a little more like Denmark, the point I make here is that it really IS realistic – if we want it to be. It’s all about what our priorities as a country are.
For the enlightened among you, you’ll recognise my title as a quote from Aaron Sorkin’s “The West Wing”. The quote comes from a character called Sam Seaborn, who like myself is a shameless optimist. Free education is not something that will come easily, but in achieving it, we will take a giant step towards a truly egalitarian society – and there’s nothing more worthy of fighting for than that, surely? This referendum is about permission. Give me permission to go and fight for free education. For the next generation. For my brother. For you.