This article in The Guardian presented me with a dilemma. Rarely, I can't actually decide which side I'm on.
We've undoubtedly turned into a nation of consumers, and it's grossly affected attitudes in all walks of life. Thanks to Ofsted and governments of the past 10+ years, teachers are the ones in the firing line when students don't perform nowadays; it's really quite warped. Responsibility of the individual has been eroded, and the result is mollycoddled students can treat teachers/academics with little or zero respect. They effectively see them as salesmen or store clerks, and can consequently blame "poor service" for their own lack of achievement. Students going into higher education need to realise they are paying for the opportunity to get a degree: not "buying" a degree itself.
However on the other hand, if you're going to force students to pay such exorbitant fees for the privilege of education - fees that will likely place them in debt for all foreseeable future and/or run their families into financial difficulty, damn right they're entitled to expect competent administration, teaching and amenities! Students ARE paying for a service, and if education is a commodity bought and sold like everything else, that in turn gives them consumer rights. No two ways about it.
It would also be foolish to suggest there aren't in fact lazy, uninspiring and corrupt teachers/professors & institutions out there feeding on students with aspirations like a cash cow. I know (for a fact) that's sometimes the case.
The problem as always comes down to politics - the general ethos of society. Those of us on the "Loony Left" seem to be the only ones who recognise certain areas of our society do not belong in the realm of profiteering and corporate markets. Eg: our health service, education, emergency services, our judicial and penal systems, the armed forces, our government itself - these entities desperately NEED to be free of vested financial interest. It is literally the only way to stem corruption and work towards a better society for all.
Those are the things our taxes should be paying for: not propping up banks to continue the cycle of elitism, not to pay grossly inflated salaries of fat-cat businessmen with established links to government, not to pay each and every MP in the House of Commons a salary of £70k+ per year along with every claimable expense under the sun??
Those on the Right will argue this that and the other, blame foreigners / terrorists / scroungers / liberals etc, shout about the importance of free markets, social order, geopolitical realities etc, but it's all just bluster. What they're really doing is trying to justify why they should be so well rewarded and others should be treated like human garbage. Or they're so blinded by corporate/media propaganda, that they foolishly somehow believe the financial and government elites give a damn about them.
They do not, we are mere offal to them. People at the top will always mistreat and exploit those they conceive beneath them, unless they are actively prevented from doing so by law or regulation. It's a sad reality of humankind.
"Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
One day soon my daughter will be off to school, and I want her to have the opportunity of higher education if she so chooses. If things continue this way in the UK, if we keep heading towards the U.S model of relentless unimpeached capitalism, the renowned British education system (once the envy of the world) will be irrevocably closed-shop for any but the rich, and students will in turn become increasingly privileged and spoiled - absent of a genuine desire to learn, just a sense of entitlement.
That should terrify every last one of us.