Yesterday hundreds of students marched on London to demonstrate against fees. People came from as far away as Edinburgh to express their displeasure both at the government, and at NUS for taking a soft line on this (current NUS policy asks that the organisation campaigns to not increase tuition fees rather than actively campaigning for free education.) It is unclear whether a majority of students would agree with demands for free education, although NUS conferences tend to be rather unrepresentative. What is clear, though, is that tuition fees are not in students’ material interests. Something that is often forgotten in these debates is that the entire point of organisations such as the NUS is to defend interests like these. The current leadership seem more concerned with politicking, with engaging the government on their own right-wing territory, rather than actually making demands that would revolutionise our higher education system not only for current students but for all people who wish to learn at a higher level.
I was also glad to be on a demonstration for free education that wasn’t pushing the line of “education for education’s sake.” This is actually something I used to talk about but I’ve really gone off the idea. This doesn’t mean that I think we should all learn “skills” and that heavily academic education should be abolished. On the contrary, I think that there are very good arguments for academic education being extremely useful to society. Whilst the use of learning about Schoenberg’s Erwartung or Greek tragedies may seem somewhat oblique, I am convinced that both having people who know about these things, as well as the ongoing process of education, is good for our society and not just for individuals. The idea of education for education’s sake is a straying away from good dialectical thought; it at once justifies good education and denounces its use.