Monday 3 July 2017

We all benefit from an educated population

The Tories are in civil war over tuition fees. Theresa May's loyal ally Damian Green obviously doesn't actually give a damn about student debt, but he is smart enough to recognise the demographic time bomb the Tories are sitting on, which has inspired him to say that the Tories need to think again about the electoral consequences of lumbering English students with the highest public university tuition fees in the entire world.

Michael Gove represents the regressive hard-right faction of the Tory party and he thinks that forcing such huge debts onto students that 70% of graduates will never pay them off despite an opportunity destroying 9% aspiration tax on their disposable income for their entire working lives.

We can all see Damian Green's grubby opportunism for what it is. He voted in favour of creating a huge barrier to social mobility with the highest university fees in the world, but at least he has the strategic cunning to realise that economically assaulting the younger generations for daring to try and get professional qualifications is a recipe for future electoral doom.

Michael Gove doesn't even have that level of brains. All he's driven by is a vindictive desire to divide society into an absurdly selfish bunch of narrow-minded materialist individuals with no social consciousness whatever, because the essence of bonkers hard-right economic dogma is that the economy only functions efficiently if we all abandon social conscience, solidarity, empathy, charity and philanthropy in order to ruthlessly maximise our own personal self-interest at all times.

When he appeared on the Andrew Marr show Michael Gove's best effort to defend lumbering the majority of university students with unpayable mountains of debt was the absurd claim that "if you don't benefit from a uni education you shouldn't pay for those who do".

Gove is famous for his ability to make ludicrous arguments (that all schools should be above average, that we shouldn't listen to experts, that the First World War was not "a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite", that the peace process in Northern Ireland was akin to condoning paedophilia...) but this appeal to blinkered selfishness is so absurd (especially coming from a Tory freeloader like Michael Gove) it's absolutely extraordinary.

The wonderful thing about Gove's latest divisive anti-intellectual statement is that it's so easy to hack.
  • "I don't benefit from the Tory party using £1 billion of public money to bribe the DUP into propping up their failing government, so why should I pay for those who do?"
  • "I don't benefit from the tax breaks given to private schools where elitists send their kids, so why should I pay for those who do?"
  • "I don't benefit from the £130 elephant lamps that Michael Gove claimed on parliamentary expenses, so why should I pay for those who do?"
  • "I don't benefit from lavish Tory handouts to the mega-rich, so why should I pay for those who do?"
The idea that there are no social or indirect economic benefits whatever to having an educated population is such a backwards hard-right delusion it's ridiculous.

We all benefit from having university educated doctors and surgeons in our hospitals. We all benefit from having university educated engineers and architects design and build our buildings and public infrastructure projects.  We all benefit from having university educated teachers in our schools. 

The social and indirect economic benefits of having an educated population are so numerous and so obvious it's extraordinary that anyone would seek to deny their existence.

If you ever went to school; ever use roads, rail, airports, or public buildings; ever enjoy the arts or use technology; have ever used the NHS; have ever needed a lawyer, solicitor or accountant; then you've benefited from somebody else's university education.

The fact that some (but by no means all) people who got a university education ended up getting highly paid jobs is hardly an injustice. If they worked hard and got highly paid jobs they should be paying back into society by paying the higher rate of income tax on their earnings.

If they're not paying the higher rate then the injustice is the fact that successive right-wing and centre-right governments have refused to clamp down on tax-dodging, not that some people got good jobs after graduating from university.

The idea that the benefits of a university education accrue only to the individual who received it is such arrant narrow-minded nonsense it's clearly designed to appeal only to the intensely thick, which is exactly the kind of dangerous anti-intellectual nonsense that Michael Gove so loves to peddle.

This attempt to create a sense of jealously and burning injustice amongst people who are too thick to recognise the social and wider indirect economic benefits of having a well educated and highly skilled population is yet another attempt by the political establishment to create an Orwellian reality reversal.

The real injustice is that kids from poor and ordinary backgrounds are being lumbered with vast unpayable debts, while the kids of the elitist establishment class have their fees paid up front by their parents and never have to pay the loans, and the ridiculous interest payments on the loans, via the 9% aspiration tax on their disposable income.

The children of the super-rich elitists already have life massively stacked in their favour, but the elitists in Westminster (including a lot of right-wing Blairite Labour MPs) see educated working class people as a horrible threat to their own establishment class, and consider lumbering them with unpayable debts just for getting an education to be a necessary measure to reduce the social mobility of the "lower orders" that they hate and fear so much.

The norm in developed European nations is either free university education, or affordable fees. People in countries like Germany, Denmark, France, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Norway, and Scotland are capable of seeing the wider benefits of having an educated population, but somehow the English have been convinced that education is not a right, and not a benefit to all of society, but actually a commodity that only benefits the individual, and which should be paid for through the imposition of literally unpayable debts.

What a narrow-minded and vindictive country England must have become to have allowed the establishment elitists to erect such huge barriers to social mobility, and to then justify it by appealing to the basest and most selfish instincts of the classes who are actually having their kids lumbered with the unpayable debts.

If countries like Germany and Scotland can afford to give all students from all backgrounds the opportunity to get a good education, what the hell is so wrong with England that Michael Gove thinks he can get away with promoting such blinkered selfishness with his absurd society-denying myth that the only beneficiaries of an educated population are those who received the education?

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