Student struggle continues

Student action continues Thursday with a blockade at Concordia and a student win declared in Valleyfield where the CEGEP cancelled classes after an administrative ultimatum collapsed.

We’ve had more scraps on this blog over the student issue than over most topics, but something crossed my mind today that I haven’t seen mentioned. The students demonstrating now are not going to suffer most from the five-year cumulative tuition increase. They’re fighting for a principle, rather than for their own pockets. That’s one thing.

But Jean Charest is ignoring another point, which is that they are fighting for Quebec. They’re hoping to make Quebec a better place by making education more accessible in the future. These students aren’t planning to get a “cheap” education then leave for greener pastures and higher salaries elsewhere. They’re doing this because they’re committed to Quebec. That’s not something he should sell cheap.

Jean Charest is betting on the Plan Nord and the old image of jolly French-Canadians hewing wood and drawing water and providing raw materials for other people to do things with, but the students are aware that in a knowledge economy you simply can’t reduce access to education and expect to thrive.

The students, despite being better connected to the rest of the world via the internet than any generation before them, are firmly placing their feet here and risking at least delaying the completion of their own education to make a point.

I don’t think Charest is either quite the villain or the idiot that some do, but I think he’d be wise to ponder what he thinks he knows about the economy and whether someone who’s 60 can ever thoroughly understand the situation of someone who’s 20. He’s got to talk, and he has to begin by acknowledging that the students are trying to push him to do the right thing for Quebec, but I doubt he has the wisdom to do it.