Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Hicham Yazza in the Guardian last week - using the backdrop of the recent British university protests about Israel's re-invasion of Gaza - looked at the political awareness of students:- [N]ot only have they highlighted a rise in political awareness among a new generation raised in the shadow of the Iraq war debate, they have also exposed what has for long been a suspected but unspoken reality: rather than being the centres of learning, debate and intellectual engagement of yore, British universities are now little more than businesses purveying a product, employable students. The message is unambiguous: political engagement might be good for the mind but it is very, very bad for business.

He continues - and this could also apply to US 'educational' institutions:- Many universities have now grown to see their task as that of churning out generic, malleable clones for the consumption of ever more regimental recruiters. Students now spend their university years being bombarded with instructions on how to turn themselves into perfect job interview candidates. Countless career tutorials, taster sessions, seminars, workshops and presentations drum into students the notion that any semblance of political consciousness will damage employability – and that employability is everything. What is being lost on many is that such a shift is draining this young generation of bright, capable graduates of their essential critical instincts. The unquestioning deference to authority and the blind adherence to the party line are now seen not as impediments, but as the pre-requisites for anyone serious about getting a job with a top recruiter.

Thanks to Martin Wisse of Progressive Gold for the Yezza link; Martin also comments vis-à-vis the lack of protests in the Netherlands:- If you have to depend on a student loan of several (tens of thousands) of pounds to be able to study, you’ll be less likely to waste your time with political activity, especially if, as in the Netherlands, your loan or grant is made dependent on your study results. It’s perhaps no coincidence that there was little if any student protest over here against the invasion of Gaza, certainly not on the scale of the UK protests.

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