December 14, 2010
Britain's Left Are PanickingBy Adam Shaw
London's descent into anarchy over a rise in university tuition fees shows just how deeply the entire leftist enterprise relies on their takeover of the university system.
Ignore the apologists wringing their hands and claiming that last week's riots were not riots, but healthy protests that were signs of a "vibrant democracy" and "an engaged youth." London has been held hostage to the tyranny of anarchist and socialist rioters for the past two weeks, and the situation shows no sign of letting up. These came to a head last Thursday when London descended into anarchy, the royal family were attacked and threatened with death, police officers were injured and nearly killed, and enormous amounts of damage were done to the city.
That these riots took place over legislation that will raise the cap on university fees from $5,192 to $9,470 ($14,200 in exceptional circumstances) a year will seem bizarre to many Americans, where students pay significantly more. This perception has led many commentators to speculate that what is being exhibited by the rioters is in fact a "spoilt brat" mentality, and that the riots were nothing more than a violent tantrum from a generation mollycoddled into a sense of entitlement by socialist Britain.
While this is true, it does not explain the frightening violence that we have seen in the capital. One may expect the usual left-wing moaning, complaining, and general insults about how "it's all the bankers' fault" in such circumstances, but this was something entirely different.
The passion behind the riots (which included not just students, but whole squads of angry leftists) is explained not only by the usual left-wing angst, but also by the fact that the rise in tuition strikes will radically reform the main left-wing recruitment center and training ground -- the university.
The once-great British university system has been slowly degenerating thanks to the progressive socialist agenda since the 1960s. Most universities are funded by the state and have pages upon pages of government interference that they must abide by. As with anything that the state funds, the ability to gain funds with which to invest and improve is limited, the necessity for competition decreases, and quality plummets. Britain's universities are stagnant.
That is not to say that there are not some extremely good universities still in Britain. The names of Oxford, Cambridge, and Imperial College London are well-known all over the world as bywords for academic excellence. Yet it is perhaps interesting to note that the university with the highest employment rate for graduates in 2008 was not any of the well-known universities such as Oxford or Cambridge, but the University of Buckingham -- which happens to be the only privately run university in Great Britain.
State interference affects the daily attitudes of students and professors. After the Education Act of 1962, University education was subsidized entirely by the taxpayer (or "free," as the left like to call it) until 1997, when minimal tuition fees were introduced for students -- fees that were eventually expanded to allow institutions to charge up to £3,290 in 2006.
So-called "free," or at least cheap, university education has led to an attitude of apathy and confusion as to what the institution of a university is for. The traditional understanding of a university as an institution of learning has been replaced by the view that university is a place where one has an "experience" or discovers oneself.
With little or no cost to the student, the university attracts many people who would not normally go, but who choose it because it offers a fun way to spend a few years and come away with a qualification at the end. Although there are a number of students who wish to learn, train, and come away with a good degree, the spirit of apathy toward education at even some of the best universities is overwhelming.
Over time, student life has focused more on drink, drugs, and casual sex (assisted by state funded "safe-sex" schemes) than on lectures. Less time in the library and more time in the Student Union bar means more opportunities to be roped into left-wing-controlled "activism," whether it is fair-trade, animal rights, eco-extremism, or plain old Marxism and anti-Americanism. As I write, news is filtering through that this week's Stockholm bomber graduated from a British University, just like the "Christmas Day bomber," Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab. One does not have to look far to see where their anti-Western attitudes may have been formed.
The current university system also allows for lazy lecturing. When at least half of the students have little interest in what the lecturer is saying and are merely clock-watching until the pub opens, this encourages the lecturer to be less prepared, less challenging, and less of a teacher. Mixed with the progressive rejection of teaching and a greater emphasis on "discussion" and "interactivity," there are many lectures in universities all around the country that are little more than cozy chats with cups of (bad) coffee. If one has taken a liberal arts course such as politics or history, any teaching that does occur often consists of left-wing talking points and untested crackpot theories.
The rise in tuition fees threatens all this. The increase of bursaries and grants that comes with the rise will not deter poor students who want to go to university, but it will deter those who are not bothered about the degree and just want to go for the "experience." In addition, such students will think long and hard about what degree they want to obtain, and they will demand value for money.
This has implications for the left-wing future of the country, as piles of students will no longer have time to follow trendy hard-left antiwar movements, anarchist protests, and whatnot, and will instead focus upon their studies.
It also means that students will expect more from their lecturers. No longer will lecturers be able to get away with holding "discussions" and "interactive experiences." They will not be able to use their students as passive subjects for their "learning experiments," but will instead find the students demanding quality teaching. The tuition rise will result in prospective students picking their university by quality of department and value for money as opposed to which location has the best student union bar. No longer will students be able to be fobbed off with a poor product, and this will frighten those lecturers who have spent their entire careers gliding by.
Finally, the tuition hikes mean that with a better university system, high quality degrees, and students seeking work in the fields in which they had studied, students will have a greater chance of attaining happy employment after they leave university. This will mean that they will be less likely to sink into a spiral of self-pity -- a spiral that quickly leads to hatred towards "the capitalist system" that didn't give them the job they "deserve."
In short, the implications of the rise in tuition will mean a complete overhaul of a corrupt system that has been used to churn out hard-left, poorly educated, childish adults with delusions of grandeur and entitlement complexes. The recruiting ground for the British left will be turned on its head.
To most Britons, the idea that we can get our university system back on track is an exciting concept. Yet to the privileged left who have hijacked the system and used it for their own financial and political ends, this idea represents the greatest threat in a generation.
It is for this reason that we have seen anarchy in our streets. This is precisely why the government proposals should be supported and the scurrilous rioters rejected in the strongest terms.