Skip to main content

Dear Student Strikers:

You are students, so I assume I can resort to reason, presenting arguments that you will consider, if not necessarily accept. Here's hoping.

First, you are not striking. Strikes take place against employers. The Government of Quebec does not employ you. In fact, it supports you financially, and will do so even after the fee increases. So in a sense, you are striking against yourselves.

Story continues below advertisement

You don't like the legislation that will make you pay for a greater proportion of your education. You know what? There is lots of legislation that I don't like either, some coming from governments that I deeply dislike, such as the current one in Ottawa. That's life. It's also democracy. We fight the legislation we don't like in the legislatures, not on the street.

We can, of course, show our displeasure on the streets, legally. But your "strike" has passed that. The occasional violence aside, you are punishing the population. No wonder public opinion is turning against you.

Education, of course, serves society. You see your cause as noble: A more-educated society is a better society. True enough. But the prime beneficiaries of that education are the educated themselves. So the issue really comes down to this: To what extent should society be paying to educate you? Right now it pays most. The government proposes to pay a lower proportion, but still most.

Who is this society that pays for so much of your education? Not "society" as some abstraction, not "government" as some bottomless pit, but the people who pay taxes. Should a person with modest income, whose children are not capable of attending university, help pay for you to be educated? (You might wish to counter that the corporations that have enjoyed tax breaks should pay more. I agree fully. But then you should be protesting on the streets of Ottawa, not Quebec.)

Let me contrast higher education with medicare, because after all, when you or I get sick, that person of modest income has to pay for our treatment, even if he or she is well.

There are two critical differences. First, any of us can get sick, so we are all potential beneficiaries. With our taxes, we are buying health insurance. The person of modest income knows that the alternative to paying through taxes is two-tier health care, worse for him or her.

Second, we gain no advantage by being sick – or by being cured, for that matter – other than at best returning to our previous state of health. Students, in contrast, are gaining advantages from the education paid for mostly by the taxpayers. In effect, we already have two tiers in higher education.

Story continues below advertisement

Of course, that advantage will continue under the new fee structure. You know what? You've got a good deal. So maybe it is time you stopped striking against yourselves and the rest of us.

You think you are on the side of righteousness. Think again. That is the purpose of education.

Henry Mintzberg is Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at McGill University.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter