The commoditization of education

Posted on December 10, 2010

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What a fantastic letter in the paper today bemoaning the loss of education as a human benefit to all and passing to a system that is all about self and the individual. See below.

Nick Boles in the debate yesterday also made poor comments about people not doing what they say they will do. That’s true, but comparing our education system with the US, Canada and Australia fails to take into account the cultural histories and economic legacies of those countries.

That letter…

We write in support of Michael Chessum’s article (Today is our 1968 moment, 9 December). There is widespread anger over the government’s higher education reforms because they represent the final transformation of our education system from a public into a private good. What we are witnessing is just the latest and sharpest manifestation of the remorseless process of commercialisation of our lives that creates insecurity, anxiety and sheer exhaustion because it piles all the pressure of coping on us as individuals.

Since the 1980s universities and schools have been steadily marketised, and pupils and students commodified. This instrumentalism is such a narrow view of what it means to be human and to be educated. That is why campaigns like UK Uncut, which links corporate tax avoidance to the rebalancing of our depleted public finances, are critical both morally and practically.

Students don’t have to be told that we are all in it together. They know it. The students know that education maintenance allowance is critical for young people from low-income families who now attend FE colleges and that cleaners on their campuses should be paid a living wage. The political class may choose to forget, but we don’t, that it was the greed of the banks and the free market regime handed to them by our politicians that tipped the nation’s finances into crisis.

We start from the belief that education cannot just be a debt trap on a learn-to-earn treadmill that we never get off as the retirement age is extended. Education in our good society is a universal public good which all must explore to reach their fullest potential. It is about the protection and extension of a precious public realm where we know each other not as consumers and competitors but as citizens and co-operators. What is happening is wrong and we must say so in every legal and peaceful way we can – in parliament, in the media, in the all sites of education and on the streets.

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