Women & the right to education
Published Mar 23, 2011 9:52 PM
Taken from a talk to a Workers World Party International Working
Women’s Month forum in New York City. Dowell is a Fight Imperialism,
Stand Together organizer and WW managing editor. Listen to entire talk at
At Hunter College women make up 70 percent of the student body — a trend
that is being reproduced throughout the country, with more and more women
attending college. This makes any struggle for education a women’s issue.
Almost half of the women attending my school — 48 percent — are
women of color.
And yet in the halls of my school today, posters created and posted by students
in women and gender studies classes at Hunter are demanding a Women and Gender
Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who campaigned on a promise to bust up the unions
— is now trying to cut funding to the City University of New York system,
of which Hunter is a part, by $95 million, as well as the State University of
New York by $100 million and community colleges by $62 million. The schools
will respond by raising tuition and fees for students, making it harder and
harder for poor, working-class folks to attend.
Free tuition at CUNY was a reality during some of your lifetimes. I can’t
imagine going to college for free now.
In North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous and economically most powerful
state in Germany with more than 25 percent of Germany’s student
population, the regional parliament just abolished tuition fees. An activist in
this struggle stressed that “only huge waves of protests over a long
period of time could take us to this kind of rollback.”
A series on public education has been running in Workers World newspaper
written by retired teacher Gene Clancy. He discusses what public education
meant to the capitalists in the beginning of the 20th century: a means to train
the next generation of workers. A century later with the onset of imperialist
globalization, the capitalists no longer have a need to train skilled workers.
Moreover, they’ve found they can profit from it, rather than giving it
away for free. That’s what the charter school movement is all about.
School remains a place where students are trained in the ideology of
capitalism. It’s where we’re taught that capitalism is the best
system, the only sustainable, logical system. That’s a bunch of lies,
essentially. Therefore, it’s so very important that we engage with
students, that we provide an alternative to the propaganda they’re
force-fed in the classrooms.
Students interacting with and showing solidarity with workers is a momentous
step forward. The fact that an alliance of students, community and labor has
been formed can be decisive in turning back austerity budgets, but also in
fighting, in general, against sexism, against war, against racism and
anti-lesbian/gay/bi/trans/queer bigotry, against the system itself. Being
involved in the battle against austerity in alliances will sharpen all these
We’ve recently seen the effects of the student movement on a global
level. The student movement was the first sector to rise up in response to the
attacks on the public sector, both here in the U.S. and in Ireland, Britain,
Italy, Pakistan, France, Greece and Puerto Rico. Students continue to play
important roles in the anti-imperialist revolts sweeping the Middle East. And
of course there’s the role of students in Wisconsin — another
beautiful instance of unity among students, labor and the community. At Hunter
students recently waged a successful campaign to save childcare there.
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