December 1, 2012

Free Education: The Global Struggle for Our Right. ~ Mehdi Comeau

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“All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual toward freedom.” ~ Albert Einstein

But are we free to access means to this end? Do we not share a universal right to develop our intellectual and artistic abilities? Are the costs, restrictions and structure of our educational system justified?

They didn’t think so in Quebec, where self-motivated students, teachers, parents and citizens came together through organized protest and strike against last year’s imposed tuition hikes.

I was ready to begin a graduate program at Montreal’s Concordia University in September, but heated demonstrations in months leading to commencement compromised the program.

Deferring enrollment, I spent a stint in Montreal nevertheless, where mobilization, passion and commitment riddled the community. Through trials and tribulations, efforts succeeded in victory when the government recently cancelled the tuition hikes.

Although that battle was won, the fight continues for free education. Globally, a growing movement gains momentum fighting for this universal right.

Individuals all over the world demonstrated zeal for free, emancipatory education during “Global Education Strike” week, November 14 – 22, 2012. In the face of injustice, groups and individuals worldwide support the initiative. The International Student Movement fights for free and emancipatory education as a human right excused from restrictive participant fees and democratically structured educational entities/institutions.

Correlations between a competitive global economic system and a market education are evident. “Education factories are producing human capital” and learning is commercialized and merchandised in a competitive environment where students are treated as both consumers of education and commodities to invest in (e.g. student loans, where returns are due for investments).

Students become links within a market chain being taught what others chose they should learn to best compete and serve in a capitalist society.

Einstein did not see developmental human rights as a commodity subject to market parameters, but as a natural path individuals deserve access to.

With slogans such as, “One world, one struggle” and “We are many youth, but with one struggle,” impassioned people are fighting for what’s right. Is this counter-culture? Or does it represent the way it ought to be?

There is hope for change. Pioneering technology is now being used to offer free education online.

Universities and individuals are teaming to forge free online courses, dubbed MOOCS‘s, for Massive Open Online Courses. Instead of paying odious tuition for a middle-rate education, people can learn from Ivy League professors for free. A handful of entities already exist, including seminal Kahn Academy, new this year Udacity, MIT, Harvard, Berkeley and The University of Texas System’s edX and the 33-university-consortium Courseraall offering free courses in countless subject areas.

Some courses consist of online instructional videos, while others are direct footage from lectures on university campuses, where students are physically there, paying for the same material. Traditional universities may soon accept MOOC credit. Levels of student learning from completed MOOC courses will begin evaluation next year, while exploring procedural and testing standards are developed.

Whether credit transfer, degrees, certificates or acknowledgment by application officials, offering MOOC accreditation of any form will increase motivation to complete courses with ambition—we all like rewards and recognition.

I encourage everyone to familiarize, and if so inclined, get involved with the universal struggle for free, emancipatory education—it is our right.

Explore online learning platforms as well, whether a traditional student looking to amp your understanding in a particular area, an individual seeking education lacking monetary means to university, a curious mind looking to stimulate intellect or anyone, for any reason.

Why are more people not privy to the international movement and online education?

Every time I spoke of demonstrations in Montreal in the U.S., even people within educational systems were unaware. How could this be?

Why did media choose not to publicize major demonstrations, even miles above a Northeastern educational hub, while a friend returning from Thailand brought a daily newspaper with a front-page presentation of the protest situation in Montreal?

Maybe worry that students in America, already paying significantly higher rates than Quebec and other countries of the world, would hear inspiration calling them to stand up against commoditized, capitalist coordinated education in the name of human justice.

We all deserve the ability to flex our intellectual and artistic capacity towards individual freedom.

Let the quest for truth and knowledge for its own sake be justified.

How do you feel about America’s higher educational system? Does the International Student Movement strike a chord with you? What can we do as local individuals of a global collective? How can we motivate? Do you see free online education as a feasible structure for the future?


A flat-capped nomad, Mehdi Comeau enjoys adventuring, discovering and muse on people and life. As a keenly curious enviro-gastronome, it’s in his nature to pursue perpetual learning and growth, be outdoors, active and create crafty kitchen concoctions, while tuning in and allowing clues in life to guide. When he’s not engaged elsewhere, you’ll often find him writing with a green blend at his side. He likes the motto: everything in moderation and full appreciation. You can read a growing collection of his musings on his blog, SolsticeSon’s Celebrational Servings.


Editor: Maja Despot


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