How Cameron’s government is criminalizing student dissent
"Education is a system of imposed ignorance" – these words describe admirably the machinations of the Cameron government in the UK education sector.
This quote by Noam Chomsky, which appeared in the 1994 Canadian
documentary, “Manufacturing Consent,” was originally designed at
the time to provoke as much as to warn against vested interests
Under PM David Cameron, Britain's centers of learning are deteriorating from colleges where young people are educated into loathsome institutions where they are told what to think.
As the private sector is invited in to manage education the purpose of every university is changing. The very idea of an independent student building where young people can socialize, organize and call their own, on the utilitarian model, will be surplus to requirements. The curriculum, too, is no longer tailored to bring out the talents of the individual, but increasingly career-led and vocational.
Millions of British students are wondering this winter if the studies they are plunging so deep into debt for are for their benefit or if they are destined to be a cog in a City of London machine, churning out fine-looking figures for longwinded economists but leaving them, and the nation, with absolutely nothing in the way of either job satisfaction or quality of life.
Tuition fees are going up again this year, leaving young couples with crippling debts of over £60,000 at 21 as they start their working life. University staff are being outsourced, working for below-poverty wages and sackable at the drop of a hat. Meanwhile, university managers, fresh from “Business School” earn the sort of absurdly high six-figure salaries which might be excusable were they increasing productivity at a meat factory. Students and academics will tell you, in a whisper, that these managers are dragging once respectable colleges into the gutter.
Not since the November 2010 London Tuition Fee mass demonstrations, the student's response to the new Coalition government, have we seen such a determined effort by the authorities to stop students from getting organized. They seem determined to dismantle their centuries-old unions and ban all except private student meetings. At the endangered University of London Union these gatherings are infiltrated by the London Stasi. Fresh from the beds of environmentalists, undercover police identify dissenters to put under their vampire surveillance machine.
Phones will be tapped, emails read, social networks studied with or without a court order.
The object: to decapitate all organized student activity, to deny
students a voice. Occupations of University campuses across the
UK in Birmingham, Brighton, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London,
Sheffield and Warwick are all being met with varying degrees of
ignorance and contempt by Universities' new factory-trained
The straw that broke the camel’s back, that struck the fear of God into David Cameron's increasingly authoritarian government, was the alarmingly peaceful joint action between student union organizers, told their offices are being closed, and university workers' IWGB union '3 Cosas' pay and conditions campaign. Not unlike Iceland's inspired and successful dissent against the IMF's global doctrine, when overpaid, unelectable bigwigs try to dismantle their world, students and workers successfully asserted their right to point out, strike and negotiate a deal.
Day after day this week, setting aside the laws they are paid to uphold, London's Metropolitan Police have been throwing punches, charging into peaceful student demonstrators. The idea is clear, there will be no more mass rallies because police will identify and arrest student representatives before they begin to mobilize their supporters.
A third-year philosophy student at the University of London's Heythrop College, Rebecca Greenford, put it like this: "Teaching staff, clerical staff, cleaners and students all know these changes will damage our education. This week we organized peaceful rallies to make our point in public, but university authorities, government and police have effectively criminalized dissent."
"At a long-arranged rally in Euston" advertised as #CopsOffCampus on Twitter, “scores of police turned up outnumbering us, then charged in snatching, grabbing and arresting 36 students,” Greenford said. “One disabled lad had his crutches knocked from under him and was kicked by police who abandoned him injured and bleeding on the pavement."
"Those arrested illegally were dispersed to cells around the outskirts of the capital many miles both from home and each other. After this police riot anyone under 30 years old leaving Euston Station was stopped by groups of cops. They cannot be allowed to close down our peaceful rallies nor arrest us for exercising our rights."
British education in the 1960s and 1970s was a state service with moral values and integrity approaching the best private education anywhere in the world, but fees, student loans, business managers, the private profit motive and an increasingly authoritarian state have changed all that.
It is as though the students' righteous anger and their physical occupation of their threatened University buildings have jangled the Cameron government's post 9/11 nerves, its mania for “wars of terror” where it gets to occupy and colonize other peoples' lands.
By occupying universities, London's students are beating Cameron at his own land-grabbing game. Didn't they know that, in a totalitarian Britain, only the government is allowed to do that?
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.