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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Mojo Up-Risin’!

Across California and some other states on Thursday night, thousands of students marched in protest of increasing tuition fees.  At 7pm Pacific Time this evening I found myself amidst one such protest as it moved through the streets of San Francisco.  It was a spirited and enthusiastic event and both the police and protesters kept their cool.  Interstate 880 was simultaneously closed to traffic by other groups of protesters.  Large protests were reported across California in Los Angeles, Berkley and other cities and in a total of 30 other states.

Peter Robinson in the Wall Street Journal reports on the “Strike and Day of Action to Defend Education”:

David Patterson, a librarian at CaƱada College, a community college in Redwood City, proved typical [of protesters].

Asked beforehand to explain his participation, he employed the vocabulary of idealism that appeared on every placard and sounded from every bullhorn. “I’m hoping that students . . . feel connected to Montgomery, to Selma . . . to the sit-ins, to Freedom Riders, to the farmworkers’ struggle” of the 1960s and ’70s, Mr. Patterson wrote on the Socialist Worker Web site. “Now that’s an education: To see your fight against oppression connected to a long line of others’ fights.”

Is that really the purpose of all this?  To teach students that they are part of a Great Revolutionary Tradition of Oppressed Peoples?  Or is it simply to draw attention to the struggles of students and teachers?

My own observations of the protesters I saw on the streets of San Francisco and those interviewed on the television networks hints at the latter.  The protesters I observed were chanting: “No Rest!  No Peace!  Education should be Free!”.  A protester interviewed in Los Angeles was asked for her ideas of how to address the costs of education – she didn’t have any.

What do you think?  

– Was this a practical expression of frustration with rising educational costs?  

– Was it an enthusiastic flashback to the youths of college professors’ “Struggle against The Man”?

– Should all education be free, and if so how would we pay for it?


  1. that allows every student the opportunity to pursue higher degrees without having to worry unnecessarily about cost. Those who can’t afford the cost would be subsidized. However, this doesn’t mean they would receive a free education. It means expanding the student loan program and keeping interests rates at or near zero. It means allowing students to exchange public service for educational grants. Those who could afford college on their own could opt out of the support system and attend any college they chose. Others might accept limited help in exchange for service.

    I would also like to see a major expansion of trade schools for those who do not want to seek a higher degree. I think our current system of apprenticeships is out-dated. Anyone can go to school to become a lawyer, yet you have to be lucky to find a spot as an apprentice to become a plumber or carpenter. This would have to be tied to an effective student-guidance program to keep the job market and the number of students for a particular field in balance.

    All of this will cost major amounts of money, but the rewards for our economy would be significant. It would also grow the middle-class, which is the lifeblood of any society.

  2. fogiv

    Was this a practical expression of frustration with rising educational costs?

    Absolutely.  A 32% increase to what’s already exhorbitantly expensive?  Frustration is probably too soft a word for what students in the CA state/UC system feel.

    Was it an enthusiastic flashback to the youths of college professors’ “Struggle against The Man”

    To some extent, but it’s different.  Today, few but the ridiculously priveledged can afford a college education in this country without pretty major financial assistance. Burdened with massive student loan debt, fresh college grads have to spend most or all of their adult lives paying them back because a BA/BS is often little but a gateway to ‘entry level’ in many cororate environments.  Really, it’s tantamount to indentured servitude.

    Should all education be free, and if so how would we pay for it?

    If a student exhibits the aptitude and the desire, they should be entitled to a virtually free education at a state college or univeristy.  I don’t know how to pay for it, but there’s got to be a way.  Tapping into the invade countries for no reason and tax cuts for the filthy rich funds might be a place to start.

  3. Elch

    I assume this is up to the University alone?

    In Germany this is regulated by the respective federal state (Bundesland) – mine was ~45 EUR per Semester – comparably low and independent from performance or reputation.


  4. rfahey22

    I’d start by expanding access to low-interest government loans – private loans can make up a higher proportion of a student’s debt and come with significantly higher interest rates.  Government loans still suck, but the terms are reasonable and they can be paid off over time without unnecessary pressure to take certain higher paying – but possibly less fulfilling – career paths.  I don’t think the country views making education free as a national priority at this time, and the government isn’t in a position to make that happen.  

    That said, it’s hard to get a sense of how much of a problem tuition increases pose in the abstract.  Each college offers a different mix of scholarships and financial aid that can offset increases to varying degrees, and so the topline tuition charges don’t tell the whole story.  My own college tuition wasn’t free but it was pretty cheap after factoring in financial aid and various scholarships (without factoring those in, it would have been pretty hard to afford).  It was only in graduate school when the real debt accumulated, and I went into that with open eyes so I really can’t complain.

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