Barbarians at the Gate

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Four things struck me particularly about this Wednesday's news from London, regarding the attack on Tory party headquarters by students, faculty, and unionists protesting the government's planned increase in college fees.

1. News reports emphasized, above everything else, the factoid that "only a minority" of the protestors who blockaded the building actually managed to do physical harm. The emphasis, in other words, was on the lack of responsibility of people who participate in a mob but don't personally do its dirty work. According to CNN, the protest was "largely peaceful." So was the storming of the Bastille, from a statistical point of view; most of the revolutionaries probably just milled around. The violence in London, says the AP, "appeared to be carried out by a small group as hundreds of others stood and watched." Enough said.

2. University education is not what it used to be. According to the Associated Press, the leader of a group of protesting faculty members opined that "the actions of a minority, out of 50,000 people, is regrettable." It is also regrettable that teachers can't make subjects and verbs agree.

3. Instead of viewing college fees as investments in their own future income, the protesting students viewed them as attempts to turn colleges into resorts of "the rich" (i.e., themselves, a few years down the road). Students also pictured the use of fees to cover Britain's immense education deficit as a case of "the previous generation passing on its debts to the next." The president of the National Union of Students said that his group "will not tolerate" that. These students demand, instead, that their own debts be passed on to the next generation. It should be noted that the costs of education would be reduced to a minimum if colleges would simply refuse to accept students who couldn't pass a rudimentary test in logic.

4. What is to keep such dramas of entitlement from happening in America, at that dreadful moment when we have to start paying our debts?




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