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Eye on Quebec
October 21, 2012
QUEBEC CITY, QC, Oct. 21,2012/ Troy Media/ – As political analysts Josee Legault bluntly stated on her blog in L’Actualite (a French equivalent of Maclean’s), the Charest government and its allies in the media went on a colossal campaign of disinformation during the spring student protests.
Through the use of constantly repeated barnyard syllogisms and truck stop bathroom reporting, Charest and Co. demonized the student movement and equated civil disobedience with violence and vandalism, to the point where Premier Jean Charest even referred to the students as ‘foreign occupants’.
Surprisingly enough, over the course of the spring and well into the summer and the ensuing election campaign, Charest and Co. did very little to explain the need for raising tuition fees or where that money would go. Very little was done to establish priorities, to look into the needs of Quebec’s various universities or into the management of available resources. Charest and Co. fed the population vague assertions that the hike was needed to maintain competitiveness and to fund infrastructure.
Fair enough, but care to elaborate? No! screamed the parrots drumming out the Charest-line. Instead, they brandished convoluted statistics showing the results of their work; supposedly, most Quebecois were in favor of the hike.
Knowing that the Charest government and a large part of the Quebec press engaged such massive resources into misleading the population and discrediting a peaceful and democratic movement, we must ask ourselves why. Why go to such length to harm and slander a movement of the people having the best interest of the people?
They did it to steer the debate away from the real issue at the heart of the tuition fee hike, the corporatization of higher education. Allow me to explain.
You have probably heard this line before: ‘Quebec needs to adopt a market-based approach to education’. It was written here as elsewhere, reproduced in hundreds of pro-Charest government articles, editorials and whatnot throughout Quebec. But what does this mean?
It means that, instead of offering a complete array of intellectual pursuits from engineering, philosophy, geography and medicine, universities have to start concentrating their ‘meager’ resources on ‘profitable’ domains of education, meaning that degrees such as sociology, history, anthropology, languages, arts, etc. will be simply cast aside in favor of more ‘economically beneficial’ degrees such as medicine or law.
This shallow economic demagoguery demands that we surrender the pursuit of knowledge and intellectual growth at the alter of a so-called ‘economic’ reality that attempts to depict higher education as nothing more then a simple commodity or service. More importantly, this socially-retarded doctrine demands that society abandon the power to analyze and critic the powers-that-be, to establish different views of the common good, to reform and reshape its social and political institutions and in the end abdicate its ability to govern itself.
As Chris Hedges explicitly outlines for us in an outstanding 2010 interview with Allan Gregg, the United States vaunted universities like Harvard, Yale and Princeton have already gone down this road. They now produce what Hedges’ refers to as ‘system managers’, individuals who, though technically proficient, do not possess the intellectual capabilities to question or challenge the system (political, social, economic, etc.) in which they live. All they can do is manage it, prod it along, their ability to think outside the box having been ground to nothing in order to insure ‘profitable’ education.
Many so-called right-wing pundits who have supported the tuition fee hike corroborate this. Their commentary is rife with grotesque insinuations that the Humanities or Social Sciences are a waste of time and money, that students who pursue these subjects are parasites and leftist revolutionaries. By adopting the alluring guise of ‘common sense’, these pundits proclaim the need for students to concentrate on cost effective studies, to apply an ‘economic’ approach to their education.
This is, without a shadow of a doubt, the real motivation behind the tuition fee hike, to distort the role of higher education in our society from the pursuit of knowledge to the production of economic tools.
We cannot accept this ideology nor the disguised attempt at usurping the role of higher education; universities are not manufacturing plant. We must remember that the more young people who attend our universities, the more of them who learn about sociology, political science, philosophy, literature, etc., the better equipped they will be to improve our society. This is why higher education needs to remain cheap in order to be accessible to the most people possible.
If we abandon this view of education, we condemn our society to being nothing more than a tool shed.
Hugo Mathieu is a Political Science and Law school graduate, a former Liberal party of Canada riding President and Vice-President for the Association des Ã‰tudiants en Droit de l’Universite Laval.
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