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 Cañada 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?