Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Student Manifesto draft

ok so this is essentially what we have, we've been distributing copies amongst the group members that are coming to the meetings (though we've only had two...but still) we also posted a copy on our facebook group page which is Unite! Fight Inequality and Create Equal Access to Post Secondary Education.... OKay, without further Adieu the manifesto


Two generations ago, when our grandparents and great grandparents surveyed the devastation of World War II, they realized that education was important to the future of their children, and to the future of our country’s democracy. Over the course of a few short years, secondary education was made universal and free for all Canadians.

Today, in 2010, it is more and more important for people to have a post-secondary degree. This is in part because of changes in the labour market, and also in part because of the fast pace and complexity of our globalized world. Greater awareness about who we are and what is going on around us is fundamental to our lives as citizens and as workers.

Yet, in the face of the growing importance of higher education, our generation is being asked to shoulder higher tuition fees, larger student debts, and declining public financial support for post-secondary institutions. Many of us face growing demands to take on part-time and full-time jobs during our studies. All of these are having negative effects on our educational experience. Rather than being an opportunity to democratically share knowledge and skills more broadly between social groups, the current consensus on higher education is digging deeper inequalities between those who can afford to pay top tuitions at the best schools, and those who cannot. We fear a trend towards greater tiering within and between institutions that will further accentuate already growing social inequalities.

We feel that this situation is arbitrary and totally unnecessary.

We believe that post-secondary education should embody the ideal of permitting each individual to pursue their fullest potential, regardless of their financial means. Individual freedom to develop and extend capacities and skills should not be the preserve of a privileged few. It must be open to all, and it is the responsibility of society as a whole to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to pursue higher education.

We reject the common belief today that our education is an individual investment in an individual future. Today, higher education is no more an individual investment than primary or secondary education was in previous times. Higher education provides access to opportunities, capabilities and awareness that enable members of our community to live fuller lives. It is an investment in our communities and in our collective future in a cosmopolitan world order.

We are concerned by the growing credentialization of the job market, which pushes us to instrumentalize our studies. Increasingly, a Bachelor’s degree is yesteryear’s high school diploma. Today’s competitive job market has placed new pressure on students and on institutions to specialize in an increasing array of post-secondary programmes. We see this development as an individualization of the risks of an economy no longer able to absorb the high numbers of young people moving into the labour market. This development, however, had nothing to do with our choices, and there are institutional mechanisms to shield members of society from the risks of a sluggish economy. In this respect, we are the carriers of a new social consensus, one which for the moment is engaged with issues pertaining to our experience as students, but which is connected to broader issues of inequality that are now restricting the freedom of the working and middle classes in Canada.

Because higher education is important to the democratic sharing of skills and capacities; because it is essential to individual self-betterment and self-exploration; because it is the condition of our individual freedom and our ability to contribute constructively to resolving the pressing problems of our time, we demand better conditions for post-secondary education.

We demand more grants and fewer loans. We demand that tuition fees be more substantially covered by public investment. Tuition fees are an arbitrary constraint to our ability to pursue our interests and endeavours. We demand better funding for universities and colleges so that these institutions can serve the mission of undergraduate education. The quality and extent of our experiences in higher education are negatively affected by systematic underfunding of post-secondary institutions in Canada, particularly since 1996. We demand that funding be restored and extended in line with a more democratic vision of the future of post-secondary education in this country.

We are aware of and concerned by the rapid increase in private sector control of higher education. In the face of inadequate public funding for its teaching mission, post-secondary institutions have been pressured into arrangements in which more and more resources are being used to subsidize corporate and private sector research for profit. We reject a future where the education agenda of our children is dictated by corporate profits. The future of higher education must be about fostering a more egalitarian, more capable society, one where all members have an equal opportunity to live affirmative and creative work-lives. We reject a future where such lives are the preserve of hereditary, wealthy elites.

We are aware of arguments that would have us believe that our university degrees are a privilege that grant access to higher salaries and rewards. These arguments serve to justify the payment of tuition as a sort of access fee to a privileged stratum of society. We reject these arguments. While we agree that those who benefit more have a greater responsibility to support public institutions which guarantee the freedom of all, we feel that the Canada Income Tax Act currently serves this function, and should be used appropriately in the public interest. Post-secondary tuition fees are the product of a classist society, a vestige of the early 20th century, when universities and colleges served to reproduce the class position of the well to do.

In the 21st century, higher education must serve a function that aims towards a broader democratization of society, one in which the knowledge and skills of the privileged strata are shared more broadly. Higher education must prepare us not merely for the labour market, but also for the pressing global challenges that we now face, for our future will not brook more of the same mistakes and false choices that our predecessors have too often made since the collapse of the egalitarian consensus that emerged at the end of World War II.

We demand action by those who lead this country, or we will come to replace them sooner than they are expecting.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

First blog

Hi there, I'm Manda and basically this is just the first entry to give people a sense of what myself and the (currently smaller, hopefully soon to be expanded) group of student s are trying to accomplish.

Basically what we are dealing with and hoping to change is this discourse involving high tuition and student debt, as well as the changes in the economy and the job market, which requires increasingly high levels of education in order to compete and participate.

Who is left out? Who is disadvantaged or advantaged by the current system? What barriers do people face in today's system, in regards to education and employment? What can we do to make a change for the better?

We are looking at various topics, such as class, status, gender, debt, parenthood, capitalism and much more are being discussed in regards to the unequal access/ opportunity for people to gain secondary education or meaningful employment.

Education should be a right and not a privilege! Continuing the way we are in society is only helping to perpetuate the inequalities we face, and we want to work at changing that.