In France, radicalised students are blocking the entrance of multiple universities. Estimates count more than one million euros in damages, with higher education establishments being affected with damages of about €300,000. What exactly do these students want, and what needs to be done about their feeling of entitlement?
French students oppose the government's new "Law for the orientation and success of students" (ORE), through which the Macron administration suggests to select students more based on their performance in secondary school. Until now, no qualifications apart from a baccalaureate were needed to get accepted to a university. This, with the fact that French students pay virtually no tuition fees and benefit from large student and housing subsidies, has made faculties considerably over-crowded.
At a large student protest in the streets of Toulouse, one interviewed student bemoaned the fact that new reforms could lead universities "to choose the students it prefers" and that students that performed better would have better chances. The idea that everyone deserves a secondary education diploma was paired with the concept that everyone needs a bachelor's degree, and then a masters degree, and an access to a PhD, and so on and so forth... The feeling of entitlement has reached the professional life as well, but we'll get to that later.
In order to show their discontempt with the planned government reforms, students are taking matters into their own hands, and not only by protesting in the streets.
Video footage shows what one university in Paris looked like after students had blocked it for days and lived in the lecture halls.
Hundreds of policemen had to be rallied to clear the paralysed universities from their own students. The French far-left student union UNEF had the temerity of claiming that many of the damages were actually caused by policemen.
The far-left violence has been a problem for a while in France.
On regular occasion, such as national holidays or announced reforms of labour regulations, violent far-left activists take to the streets of Paris or other major cities, burning cars and breaking windows. During Labor Day protests in the French capital and with half the city on lockdown, six police officers were set on fire and severely injured. Despite France’s tradition of political violence, the protests against the Aéroport du Grand Ouest project are unprecedented: hundreds of activists are occupying the construction site, violently resisting the police and even attacking journalists. French president Macron has decided to give in to this violence and abandon the airport construction completely. And yet, these activists are unwilling to leave, and some 2,000 policemen are being deployed to clear the area. These are radical leftists and environmentalists who have occupied land that is not theirs for over ten years.
This has now become the norm: it is not only that you resist with words, but that initiating violence is essential for your "lutte" (French word for struggle/fight).
On Monday, Le Monde ran a fascinatingly telling story of a young woman unable to find a job. This article, written by Léa, a 25 year-old job seeker, represented everything which is wrong with the French higher education, and by extension, all education systems seeking to equal the French experience. In this picture by Le Monde, she holds up a sign:
"Léa, 25 years old
Baccalaureate L (literature)
Preparation school for SciencesPo (renowned French elite political science school), first year history
SciencesPo Grenoble ESS (economics and social sciences)
Master in public policy, direction of cultural projects"
She also points out in the article that she applied for a job in the "fonction publique territoriale" (regional public sector), a newly created set of public sector job in which bureaucrats administer new rules on regional administration. I know that sounds incredibly productive and useful, doesn't it?
Léa is complaining that she has not been offered a job, insisting on the fact that it must be because she's A) young and B) a woman. Right.
Hey Léa, in case you see this and in case your political science school has taught you English: A) you don't have a right to a job and B) if you can't even get a job in the public sector area that you so carefully studied, maybe you're just too much of a liability to work in any office. You're not special because you completed an "elite" school, and stacking up your diplomas is merely evidence for the time you lost that you could have spent gaining actual work experience.
Unless you're an engineer, chemist or any other scientist who acquires specific skills, your degree is worthless. We are inflating the number of degrees so much that there is no way these "competences" can still be considered worth the while of any employer. Because not only do students leave their hallways with a large ego and a lot of paperwork, but they also come out with the incredible sense of entitlement. This is most notably why we find ourselves with large-scale union protests in France, because they have no idea what it means to actually work for their money. They have excelled in their overly specific field, but nobody has taught them any actual work ethic.
Dear students: nobody owes you anything. You don't have a right to a job, you only have the right to ask for a job. If your skills do not excite ANY employer, then it's probably your problem, and not theirs. And it certainly isn't the problem of any third party.
Pictures are Creative Commons.