Rioting in London

Those who benefited from the student grants of old have probably had mixed feelings about the proposed changes in university funding and, in particular, the financial burdens being placed on students of the future. When we were young, universities were fewer, student numbers were fewer (can you believe, when I was at Cambridge only one undergraduate in ten was a woman?), and our expectations of the State were lower; but we knew we were immensely privileged and wanted as many as possible to share that privilege. Education was worthwhile: it meant hard work and sacrifice and laid obligations on us which we cheerfully accepted. It made idealists of us.

Looking at what happened in London yesterday, my own idealism began to slip. I thought I understood why the Government proposed the changes it has; I thought I understood how the scheme will work; and I thought I understood why so many people are angry; but I sat on the fence because I thought I also understood the wider economic argument. The violence and vandalism we saw yesterday are completely unacceptable. They show the argument has been lost, and in losing the argument we  have lost something greater still, the sense of what higher education is.

Long ago, a charming and brilliant friend who had devoted her life to the W.E.A. mused aloud, “education is too good to be wasted on the young.” I don’t agree; but I do think education is too precious to be wasted. Breaking windows and throwing paint are like Xantippe’s piss-pot. I hope they will not distract us from the serious matters we need to address.

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2 thoughts on “Rioting in London”

  1. Ah Catherine, I too was sad to watch the scenes from London. As you say, once we resort to violence everyone gets distracted from the bigger issues. Maybe that is why Christ is portrayed as being so against violence.

  2. I find the whole thing distressing. I am the first of my family to go to university – and only because I got a full grant. Currently some of my sixth-form tutor group are worrying about whether it’s worth going to uni at all as they are so afraid of the cost. These are seriously bright students – despite being a comp. we encourage them to aim high.

    On the other hand much of “university” education appears to be a form of further education in which “going to uni” might not even be the best way of educating the young people involved. Something has gone seriously wrong along the way. Please pray for my students.

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