The protesters were out in full force Tuesday evening as my friend Peter and I walked through the Plateau Mont Royal to the restaurant. When the radio announcer talked about the Pots and Pans brigade I thought he was being funny, but indeed the student protesters at the corner of Villeneuve and de l’Esplanade were banging pots and pans on all four corners. Peter, who has known me for years, warned me not to engage them. I was amused several minutes later when the skies opened up and their pots and pans got a thorough soaking.
The headlines yesterday read that they were waiting for a ‘clear response’ from the government. I thought this is inaccurate because they had already gotten a clear response to their demands… They just didn’t like what that response was.
Indeed they got that response again yesterday, and today’s article has one of the student leaders quoted saying ‘we are ready to go back to negotiations whenever the other side is ready.’
This is a lie.
Since the strikes began the government has moved a number of times. The students have not. Sure, they have on a number of occasions provided suggestions on who else could pay for their education, but that is all. That is not negotiations, that is sitting at the table insisting the other side give everything and offering nothing in return.
I sat with a university student Wednesday and asked her opinion. While she is not striking, she supported those who did. She was clear that she supported people’s right to protest, and that any attempt to stop them was tantamount to fascism. I was amazed but I shouldn’t be… Students should be idealists.
What I don’t understand is how people got the idea that education – especially higher education – is a right. Moreover not only is it.a right, it is my obligation as a taxpayer to provide it for her and every other student who wants it and is unwilling to pay for it.
This student objected to spending money on campus beautification, claiming that a recent investment of $600,000 in the gardens at McGill (where she studies) was an offensive waste of money. She rejected my claims that McGill is a cornerstone of Montreal, built into the mountain and should look nice. She also objected to the idea that they have to look good to attract foreign students who DO pay for their tuition.
I asked this girl how much her tuition cost, and she said for students raised in the province it was about $1500/year. I corrected her and said it was closer to $15,000, and that the taxpayer already paid most of it.
Her next objection was that she did not like that schools were run as businesses. This I felt sas her most naive position, insofar as any institution that is run otherwise will soon find itself in severe financial problems.
In the end I convinced this idealistic student of nothing, nor did e convince me I i was wrong. It is pointless trying to tell a young person that one day they will leave school and have to live in the real world with real realities… They are all smarter than we are, and know everything. Our experience in the real world doesn’t apply to them. I paid for her coffee and wished her well.
I do not k ow what will become of Quebec student protesters.. I guess time will sort that out. I do know that the realities of the real world can hit the idealistic quite hard, and I hope they do not turn into bitter or angry adults. You can bang as many pots and pans as you like; the reality is that their DEMANDS (to which I don’t believe they have the right) are unreasonable, and at a certain point, after you have made your point, you are just acting like cry-babies. The ‘But I want it!’ attitude doesn’t work in the real world… no matter how many tantrums you throw.
My friend Peter pointed out that a strike is supposed to be the denial of a service in protest. As the students are not service providers but rather consumers, they are not actually striking, but simply skipping class and (again) making a lot of noise. They have the right to protest, but to disrupt a city and damage property? No, it’s time to go back to school and get an education for which one day you will realize that the extra $1,500 (over a four year degree) that the government wants you to pay is the equivalent of less than one week’s pay – at least at a job you would get if you DID finish school which, at this rate, you won’t.
I wish most of the students well… but understand that before you can lead you must follow… and your organizers have lost sight of that; you may be following the wrong leaders down a very deep and unfriendly path.
Have a great week-end folks… and try to stay dry!