FACE TO FACE: Do Quebec university students' protests make sense?
Boy, are we mad at those students in Quebec.
As usual, whenever anyone protests anything, we focus on disparaging everything except what they're actually lathered about.
We sound like 1960s parents decrying the Beatles' "yeah, yeah, yeah" music and mop-top hairdos - parents who saw the long hair but never heard the tunes.
Similarly, when thousands of Quebec students protest tuition hikes, everyone from Rex Murphy to my young colleague stampedes to craft the snidest personal indictments they can come up with - without hearing the music.
Quebec students are at the beginning of the same tuition whiplash that flailed B.C. students since the 2002 repeal of a six-year tuition freeze. Since then, tuition has doubled in B.C. and post-secondary education is fast becoming inaccessible to all but the wealthy.
Quebec Premier Jean Charest's government, stuck with a tired old slash-and-burn conservative template, is hacking government spending, privatizing pensions and instituting a $200 health care tax. Charest and company are also counting on the tuition money they can snatch from students to help pay for the loss of government revenue resulting from another purposeful starving of government revenues.
And so, Quebec students face a 75% tuition increase over five years.
"That's only a cup of coffee per day," argue some, "big deal."
But it is a big deal. Quebec has long had the lowest tuition fees in Canada for two reasons: a 13-year tuition freeze and the political will to insist on respecting higher education. Quebec is the last Canadian province committed to keeping post secondary education accessible.
That's what the protesters are fighting to maintain.
So we can criticize strategy, incidents of public mischief, laziness and even the poor personal hygiene of some, if we must.
We can insist they shut up and/or get a job.
We can call them names and explain why tuition freezes are bad and that only 30% of the students are involved in the protesting.
But beyond the insults, rather than insisting that Quebec's tuition makes students there as destitute and debt-ridden as are other Canadian students, why don't we insist that our students' tuition is lowered to Quebec levels?
Unlike the Beatles-bashers of the '60s, I find this Quebec student music exciting. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Face to Face columnist Jim Nelson is a retired Tri-City teacher and principal who lives in Port Moody. He has contributed a number of columns on education-related issues to The Tri-City News.