There is much that I do not understand about the Quebec student protests currently terrorizing the streets of Montreal. I can comprehend neither the passion nor the lack of logic employed by the students. The level of violence, and for that matter, the Quebec Government’s response is also mystifying.
As much I believe in post-secondary education (I have two post-secondary degrees), one must question the efficacy of an educational system that leaves the student with such a dearth of basic economic understanding. For example a “strike” by definition is when there is a concerted effort by a group to voluntarily withdraw services of value to increase the value of that service to those who consume it. Bus drivers and airline pilots can and do go on strike. Nurses and certainly teachers, subject to Essential Service Legislation, can withdraw their service to improve their bargaining position. Even professional athletes have struck to increase their already excessive salaries. But no part of what the Quebec University Students are doing qualifies as a “strike”.
Firstly, the only people they are inconveniencing by boycotting classes are themselves. Their “service” does not have any economic value, except to themselves. No part of the boycott inconveniences anybody including their professors, who suddenly have reduced class sizes and fewer papers to grade. Worse, they have actually prepaid for the service they are now boycotting. It defies both economics and logic.
Boycotts aside, certainly their extra curricular tactics are inconveniencing the public and severely threatening public safety. They have evolved into street thugs; petty terrorists dedicated to wanton property damage to advance their cause. Why the Quebec Government would negotiate with petty terrorists is quite puzzling. Giving in on minor concessions regarding timetables and student loan forgiveness, far from placating the students, has only encouraged them. Apparently, the students believe their tactics have been moderately successful and accordingly have torqued things up a bit.
Quebec University Students pay, by far, the lowest post-secondary tuition fees in the country. Even after the scheduled increments, the tuition fees will be barely half what students in Alberta, for example, pay for their education. Accordingly, one might expect that Quebec Students might begrudgingly accept the comparatively modest tuition increase, secure in the knowledge of comparatively how good they have it. One would be surprised.
The Quebec Student strike and protests, like the popular Greek austerity protests, reveal some odd entitlements-mentality of consumers of the modern welfare state. Since the Quebec students pay the least, they feel they have the most to lose by increased fees for their education. Expressed alternatively, one becomes dependent on free or nearly free service. Accordingly, when that free service is terminated, like any dependence, there is an adverse reaction caused by withdrawal.
I hope that eventually the striking students receive some valuable lessons that have somehow escaped them in the classroom: Governments must live within their means. There is no such thing as a free lunch; everything costs somebody something. And disrespect for the rule of law will not lead to a cheaper education, but it will lead to a criminal record that will haunt them much longer than their student loans.