Thursday, June 14, 2012

Free Post-Secondary Education & Change

There is a reason to oppose free post-secondary education, and that is the unwillingness to change.

Though a majority of Canadians offer justifications for opposing free post-secondary education, the problem is the incongruencies in those arguments suggest they are but rationalizations of a fear of change.

For those Canadians who oppose free higher education, there is no explanation why high school, which in Canada is of a lower quality by international standards, should be 100% publicly provided but post-secondary education shouldn't be. That the government should provide education of a lower quality but not the education that actually has merit comparable to global standards.

The reason why high school is free is because it used to be all that was needed for a career, trades had apprenticeships and universities were for specializations. Today however attending trades school or university is a necessity not just for Canadians in Canada, but for Canada in the world.

In response to this, the only justification for most Canadians opposing free post-secondary education while supporting free education up until then is an extremely powerful force, the status quo.

You may be writhing in your seat, saying you are not afraid of change, that you have a strong reason to oppose free post-secondary education, and you do, it's just not what you think it is.

You're fear of change is incredibly powerful, even with evidence that the cost of free post-secondary education would be more than off-set by tax revenue from increased incomes, that just won't convince you, because your justification isn't an argument that depends on facts, it depends on a feeling.

But it could be argued that free post-secondary education would be paying for wealthy kids to go to university and that's just an inefficient use of public money. And it certainly is, just as inefficient as providing them all levels of education, health care, Old Age Security, police, roads, etc. Unless you want to privatize everything, pointing out that contradiction in beliefs won't change anything, because the fear of change was irrational to begin with.

Of course some people are more upfront about their affinity to the status quo, and they claim that everything is fine the way it is. Besides the contradiction pointed out above, there are inefficiencies in our grant, bursary, scholarship and student loan programs, not to mention increased bureaucracy in government and universities as a result of the current system. And even in this supposed utopia of funding in student aid for higher education, there are people who still can't afford to go.

In regards to services provided to citizens, education should be the first priority; this is a belief that dates back to Plato and has echoed throughout history. If anything is to be publicly provided it should be education. People who are educated earn more income, are healthier, are more productive, are more active, and are all around better citizens. Education is a public good that does not end at high school and neither should its public provision.

But education can be entirely privatized, we shouldn't be afraid of change in that direction either. What we should be afraid of however is the inconsistency within public policy in this country, where some less important programs are free but other more important ones aren't, even within the education system itself.

In the end, it doesn't matter, because a majority of Canadians fear change, no matter the excuse they use. However, the only thing they should fear, is the fear of change itself, and of course all the inconsistencies it brings.

But sadly that too would require a really big change.


Loraine Lamontagne said...

I can honestly say that I don't fear change; I have always enjoyed change, and at sixty, I have seen a lot of things change.

However, when I hear that Mise en demeure will be performing on the Plains of Abraham during the Fête nationale I fear the consequences. This is the group that prints posters of pastiche art showing a dead Jean Charest, and writes songs that invite people to kill a government minister with a chainsaw (Ah vous dirais-je scie à chaine, M'as te présenter Courchesne).

My fear of the consequences I am sure stems from the memory of the murder of Pierre Laporte. I call it a murder, but for a number of people, Pierre Laporte choked himself with the chain he wore around his neck; it's his fault if he died, the FLQ members being merely victims of his attempt to escape. That's what I fear: those who for political purposes justify extreme violence. said...

Supporting free post-secondary education doesn't mean supporting violence.

There certainly are misguided protesters, but the general aim of public education should be considered on its own merits.