So yes, I am being incredibly brave, and the truth is I am not at all scared of my own opinion. Opinions are dynamic evolving things and for now this is mine.
Over lunch yesterday, my best friends and I had a great conversation and engaging debate, which got me thinking about the content of this blog post. Who knows how it started, talk about cheese and beer drifted into a conversation on societal inequalities, and an opinion was expressed that education is the key to change (this I agree with) however a continuation of this sentiment is that education should be free (and this… I most vehemently disagree with).
Nothing can ever be free. Not even love. Everything in life costs something. The love from even your mother comes at a cost to her. If it did not, it would not be so powerful. Anything and everything that is worthwhile in life comes at some sort of sacrifice. So hold on …..wait, before I become too philosophical, let’s backtrack because I think my friend/s meant in the more practical sense. The example of Sweden was offered as a model for free education. Very practical yes….. and IMNSHO, very ridiculous yes! It is outright insane to compare South Africa with Sweden. Sweden is a very socialist country, because they can afford to be socialist. As in literally (they have the money) to afford to be socialist. Their basic human rights are taken care of – in South Africa ours are not. Without that, any plight to educate will be futile.
Education is more than studying from a few books, writing a few research papers, getting a degree or three or seven. It is not the cognitive abilities of our society that will fix our problems, it is our metacognitive abilities that will do this. Our thinking about our thinking. The foundation for our metacognitive abilities is only fertilized through socialisation. You can be smart, but a sociopath at the same time. And those fuckers are absolutely no good to society.
It is at grassroots that we must foster development. The past is in the past. Yes I was not popular with my friends for saying that, but I will stick to my guns.
We have what we have. Now – the present. No actions now will undo what was done. There is always the option for vengeance (….yes peoples that what it is – call it whatever else you want to now, but know that it is vengeful to 20 years ex post facto lash out now for something that was not addressed). AND vengeance stagnates growth #Fact. Again IMNSHO, there is no difference in looking at this from a personal point of view. Let’s say I had an abusive husband…. treated me like dirt, emotionally disempowered me, the shit beat me to pulp regularly and verbally lambasted me for years…you get the story. We got divorced – and we each got our settlement. A settlement we agreed upon. Some years later I am unhappy because my life still isn’t going according to the ideal I thought it would – so now I want to go back and take more of what I feel is rightfully mine. It’s driven by emotion…. and yes THAT is vengeful. While there would be some comfort to be gained from vengeance – it’s comfort that is short-lived and short-sighted.
Education is the key, but redressing the more basic problems in society is needed before an attempt at educating the nation will be successful. Academic degrees won’t make us a better or more caring society – and that’s actually what we really need. Not more educated people, more caring people! We need to address those needs first. Higher education (HE) is a luxury, when security, health care and basic education is so severely restricted as it is in our country. One has to actually respect the ingenious way certain politicians use the thought, the notion of HE as a carrot, which they dangle in front of the masses, getting them to believe that is the solution. It’s really clever.
A note of education…. UCT and MIT have a comprehensive selection of MOOCs which are freely available. Surprise, surprise….there are cost free options to educate oneself! However perhaps because current “paid for” university education seems more “prestigious” … the politicians would have us believe that it is key. Sadly MOOCs cannot be fully utilised without basic needs such as a safe learning environment. Besides that, the throughput in general is not good…. Why?, again IMNSHO because it is free – so the quality of what is offered is not on par with a paid for face to face course. It takes time, energy and resources to develop and offer educational content that is worthwhile – Anything that is free, is not worth as much as something that has come at some sort of sacrifice. Why should education be different to food? It would sound outrageous and ridiculous if people demanded free food from the government, wouldn’t it? Why doesn’t it sound ridiculous when people demand absolutely free education? Or does it……
Anyway, I could go on and on and on, but enough of this already. Time to get on with my jobs – coincidentally, one of them is being an open education practitioner (For example I use YouTube to make educational resources available for free for any/all students who need help with stats) …. so I have nothing else to prove. My views on educating people, and facilitating public access to educational resources is clear. But as a whole, South African society – we are not ready for Fees to Fall.