There is a faction of society whose political power and motivation is vastly overrated: the youth. In the political and economic turmoil most nations find themselves in, a lesson must be noted: you cannot solve problems by externalizing costs to those who are not responsible.
The dire consequences from this lesson have been unveiled in London, where student protests turned violent during a demonstration against increased tuition expenses.
According to protestors, there were 50,000 people fighting the austerity measure that their government has enacted. University tuition in England is tripling because of the weak economic state of the country. In the gruesome game of politics, those with the weakest voice tend to be exploited.
Students decided to amplify this voice during the protest. The Conservative Party in England, equivalent to the Republican Party in the U.S., took power last May.
The protest turned violent when demonstrators passed the Conservative Party headquarters and decided to smash three windows, destroy the lobby and climb to the roof of the building. The vestige of nonviolent disobedience was lost and the protest turned to riot.
Whether or not you support their methods, you cannot deny that their power to disrupt successfully spread their message. People do not destroy for nothing. Perhaps their actions were rightly taken.
Like most Western countries, England’s debt has spiraled out of control. The government needed to cut programs. The future of the nation’s youth was the first to make the sacrifice. These were not modest increases.
Currently, tuition in England is about $5,265. These increases will make the maximum cost for college $14,400, almost a threefold increase.
To an American student, arguing over a few thousand dollars in college tuition may not seem to justify the wide scale violence that students participated in.
However, it is important to recognize that in most European countries, higher education is free, but reserved for those pursuing scholarly work. For example, in 2009, only 10 percent of French students within the ages of 18-24 went to college, whereas 40 percent of American students within this age limit attended.
Educational reform in England is working to send 50 percent of this age group to college, so in 1998 they instated a tuition expense to compensate for the mass influx of students attending college.
These rates have been increasing ever since, and now they plan on tripling. A decade ago, post-secondary education was free. Now thousands will not be able to attend college solely because of its cost.
Can we expect similar trends in the United States? It hasn’t even been a month since Republicans won the majority in the House, and talk of cutting social programs has already been thrown about.
When the government is unable to keep their own budget, why is it the people who are the first to make sacrifices? It seems as if the government, as an entity, makes laws to protect itself, rather than benefitting the people. Social programs are always the first to get cut: education, welfare and healthcare.
The University of Mary Washington has already been talking about raising tuition nearly 25 percent. It is only a matter of time before these injustices motivate our students to act aggressively.