On the Quebec Student Strike

Justin E. H. Smith at his own blog:

ScreenHunter_09 Apr. 26 23.17On April 23, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Lilian Radovac aptly described the past few months of upheaval across Quebec as “the biggest student uprising you've never heard of.” This movement, which began building from early February of this year, has at its peak involved over 300,000 students across the province. A demonstration on March 22 attracted over 200,000 participants to the streets of Montreal. There have been scores of arrests.

The official reason for the movement is student opposition to the announcement from the government of provincial prime minister Jean Charest of its intention to raise university tuition around 75% over the next five years, to a little under $4000 per year. At the end of this period, Quebec tuition will still be the lowest of all Canadian universities, which are in turn much less expensive than all American public universities.

In spite of what many outside of the province consider a deal too good to complain about, one frequent demand of the demonstrators is for something even better than what Quebec students had before the hikes: free university education for all. This is of course a tall order, and that it can be made at all has much to do with the unique place of Quebec in North American society, and with the sense of many in this province that it is a society based on a different set of values, and a different set of choices, than those of the rest of the continent. As Sameer Zuberi wrote recently in the Huffington Post, “Quebecers have made a societal choice to keep education accessible to all, regardless of income.”

One question right now is whether Quebec will in fact be able to hold out against the consumer model of education that is sweeping the world around it.

More here.