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For more useful English-language sources on the conflict, see:
Jerry Beaudoin, Primary school teacher June 2, 2012
I’m truly astonished every time, after more than a hundred days of student outcry, that I’m still reading such spiteful and condescending clichés about students in comments on various social networks.
Sometimes, they’re called tyrant children; other times, it’s said they’re working the system. These deeply flawed arguments made by some show that, most of the time, this debate is more emotional than rational. In fact, briefly comparing the situation of today’s youth with that of their predecessors illustrates how completely unfounded some of these claims are. Whereas their parents, who benefited from education that was practically free and had access to free public services, are fighting passionately for lower taxes and hope for a gilded retirement paid for by generations to come, today’s students see imposed on them, blow by blow: higher tuition fees, rising prices, that they will have to retire later, that they’ll probably have to meekly accept fees for certain public services, and that they alone will have to pay the debt that their predecessors have bequeathed them. And we dare call them tyrant children? Spoiled babies? Really?
You can make numbers say whatever you want them to, and the Charest government doesn’t shy way from doing so. Nevertheless, some students from more modest backgrounds, especially if they’re coming from outside of urban areas, will never be able to access an increasingly expensive university system. And that is unacceptable in Quebec’s social democracy, where the commodification of education has no place—whether or not it’s the norm in Anglo-Saxon North America.
Many people call the students who’ve been demonstrating for 100 days now spoiled brats [enfants-rois]. But is it really the students who are spoiled?
Who paid $600 a year to go to university? Baby-boomers.
Who could find a job on demand when they finished their education? Baby-boomers.
Who’s benefiting from retirement at 55 or 60? Baby-boomers.
Who’s enjoying or will enjoy Cadillac pensions? Baby-boomers.
Who gets to have pension income splitting? Baby-boomers.
I know: I am one, and I’ve had all of this. Young people don’t have all this and won’t have it because baby-boomers indebted society as they saw fit, and because, moreover, these young people will now have to continue paying their entire working adult lives to maintain these privileges for the baby-boomers. And now, in addition to the thousands of dollars in tuition and auxiliary fees at university, we want to make them pay $1625 more and peg it all to inflation!
Young people have had enough, and I completely get it. It’s up to the spoiled baby-boomers now [baby-boomers rois], and absolutely not up to the youth, to give more. And personally, I’m ready to do so. We have a beautiful generation of young people dreaming of a better, more egalitarian and more ecological world, and we should be proud of them and support them. It would be wonderful if our Minister of Youth* could understand as much.
Jean Piuze, 66-year-old spoiled baby-boomer, Quebec City, 23 May 2012
*Trans: In addition to his position as prime minister, Jean Charest is responsible for the youth portfolio in his cabinet.
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.