My esteemed New Zealand colleague Bronwen Harward has sent me a recent blog about the London student protests on 9th December. She posed a few questions about how we view young people in the UK today. Here's my response:
We don't listen to young people much – "seen and not heard" dies slowly despite all the pedagogy. I wonder what the schools (of all those protesting 14 year olds) are doing about these issues. My guess is not a lot, if anything, as it is clearly current affairs and falls between the history and citizenship stools. Anyway, it's "political", isn't it. They'll probably be helping the police, of course, if the Oxfordshire incident ( reported in the Guardian: http://blogs.bath.ac.uk/edswahs/ ) is typical. I think it's all really rather pretend-French, and I'm caught between deploring (all the violence) and admiring (the motivation to protest). Mind you, I think that their message is very confused, and I suspect off-putting to other voters. But so is the government's (though not so off-putting, perhaps). At heart, this is about how do we, as a society, fund our universities so that the best of them remain / become world-class (international league tables / overseas income / nobel prizes / rich and generous alumni). No one seems to question that (universal) goal, even though it only really can be an aspiration for 20 (?) institutions. The rest is about how to divide up the cost. If I were young I'd maybe see it as the baby boomers at it again, scrabbling to haul up the ladders of social mobility before it costs them too much and blights their retirement. I suspect that the top universities are quietly confident that it will make little difference to applications – what else is there for the brightest young people to do? They cannot all go to Harvard or Sciences Po.