by Jeremy Crowlesmith
On Monday March 14th Noam Chomsky spoke to a group of activists about a variety of topics. Kritische Studenten Utrecht was at the interview and asked Professor Chomsky about the roots of the current higher education cuts.
“First of all, it seems obvious that increases in fees and cuts in education have nothing to do with economic problems. If they can provide free higher education in a poor country like Mexico (KB#2 augustus 2010 ), why not in a rich industrialized country like the United States or the Netherlands? The reforms have more to do with creating discipline and social control under the student population. To understand the roots of this issue you have back to the student movements of the sixties.
This was a period where people like students, women, and minorities, who were usually passive and obedient, were entering the political arena and agitating for their own interests and concerns. Many students had free time next to their studies to become politically active, often putting aside studies for a period to devote more time to activism. Graduated law students would start work with leftist collectives to support activists and such. All this activism had a democratizing effect on the society in general, and also in the universities.
These popular uprisings in the industrial world of the sixties were referred to as a Crisis of Democracy in a book by the same name co-authored by Samuel Huntington for the Tri-Lateral Commission, a think tank closely linked to the Carter administration. They were very concerned that people like students, women, and minorities, who were usually passive and obedient, were entering the political arena and agitating for their own interests and concerns. This was the Crisis of Democracy which they proposed to put to an end and achieve more “moderation in democracy”. They were particularly concerned about students and student activism, and argued that the “institutions which were responsible for the indoctrination of the young”, referring to school and universities, had failed. What they proposed to reverse this trend was to eliminate the options for students to engage in activism.
For one thing was that students had too much freedom, and one of the ways end this is to raise tuition fees. With student loans of twenty thousand dollars hanging over your head it becomes hard for the law student that I mentioned to work in public interest law, he or she will have to work for a corporate law firm to off the debt. “You’re bound for life. That’s the idea. It’s a system of disciplining and domination.”
This doesn’t mean that this trend can’t be reversed. Look at situation that I mentioned in Mexico where higher education is still free. Ten years ago the government tried to implement tuition fees, after a national student strike the government had to back off. Students are actually still occupying the main administrative building in Mexico City, after 10 years, claiming it as their space!”