Let’s fight for free education

“Education is a fundamental condition of human freedom.”

Recently, media in Newfoundland and Labrador have reported on the possibility of tuition fee increases at Memorial University. In response I would like to share this reflection.

Tuition should be free. All education should be free. For N.L. students, Canadian students, international students. Undergrads, graduates, PhDs, toddlers in daycare. At MUN, at CNA, at a trade college, by distance with an institution on the other side of the world. High school textbooks, junior high school calculators, elementary school lunches, primary school crayons. All of the above for all of the above; zero education costs for all (so, you read me right if you read that we should be giving university students free lunches and toddlers free books).

Education is a fundamental condition of human freedom. It is one institution that has, despite being ridiculously flawed and coopted in many ways, supported individuals to take control of their own struggles for liberation. It is a fundamental right, an undeniable good and something which everyone deserves simply because they exist.

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) should be commended for keeping the tuition freeze in place for almost two decades. It is one of the great victories for social justice in the province in recent memory.

They likewise should be commended for taking the position that tuition should be free, as was strongly argued in their November 2016 report It’s Time to Think Big.

Now is the time to strongly stand by this position. Let’s demand that and more. To the CFS and everyone else who believes in the fundamental importance of education: let’s fight for free education, across the board, for everyone. I would support this fiercely, on the front lines and behind the scenes. I know many others would.

Of course, it is an immense challenge to demand such things when boatloads of the public say, ‘Well, the province is in deep economic shit, so we should pay more.’ But I believe such a demand is perfectly reasonable. Oil companies can pay more taxes, the rich can pay more taxes, the province can stop burning money on mega-projects.

This demand is not unreasonable, it simply runs counter to a status-quo that is defined by corporations and elites. The status-quo changes when we take bold action, and more importantly, create opportunities—spaces, conditions, events, organizations—for others to take bold actions of their own.

Tuition is free for many people elsewhere in the world. Any of us who wish to stand on the sides of human rights and freedom for everyone should demand tuition be free for all people everywhere.

Daniel Miller / St. John’s

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