Student Hate Is Not Cool

student protests

So I am officially over the student bashing. Really, really over it. I’m at the point of screaming here because I am so sick of labels and stereotypes. It seems no matter which way we turn, we’re doing something offensive to the government or society in general. Let’s take a guided tour of student criticism, shall we?

You have the government who complains about the cheque we forget to send them. Your HECS debt is too expensive. Your public transport freeloading (questionable) is costing us big time. You’re not working hard enough, you’re not contributing to the economy.

You have the former generations telling us you’re entitled. You wouldn’t know what real work/suffering/pain/unhappiness is. You’re privileged and you don’t appreciate it.

You have student on student too. Law students telling Arts students you’re degree is barely a real degree, you don’t have it as hard as I do. Economics majors telling Literature students that they won’t even have a career. Teaching is called an “easy” or “default” degree.

It’s a lot of negativity. There are certainly people singing our praises, but it’s often the critics who have the loudest voices. Sadly, there is a perception that students are lying about how poor they are because “there’s always enough money for booze on the weekend” (insert your own western burbs pensioner voice if you wish). Okay, let’s clear something up. There are a significant number of students living below the poverty line and working multiple jobs just to pay for rent. Some students report going without things like medical care because that’s the difference between rent and food, and homelessness. Privileged university kids do exist, of course, and believe me I detest them as much as you probably do. They contribute to stereotypes applied to all students and are often rather infuriating beings. To them a bucket load of cash is a night out every week, sometimes more, when to me it is so many things that I wish I could give my family in return for all they give me. Textbooks, money for food, an exchange overseas, medical expenses. But most students do not fit this rather hateful gen Y stereotype, and more people need to realise that.

We go to university so that we can achieve our dreams, get good jobs and hope to be something more than we are. Successful, good citizens and maybe even one day parents. So I find it hard to believe that the government has more to say about how much we cost than how hard we work. Because despite what you may believe, we work hard. By time I am 22 I will have worked at uni for five years and will come out with a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters in Nursing. That’s what my hard work will get me. Others will get law degrees, medical degrees, pharmacy degrees etc. Many of those degrees will be awarded with honours, signalling an even greater commitment and degree of work. Tavi Gevinson, a young blogger and fashion writer, has a quote that I’m quite fond of:

“People call my generation stupid but when I show them that I have a brain they call me a fake”

So often this is the case that people can’t handle someone younger than them having an opinion about who to vote for, what to do in a complex situation, or a point of view on a world issue. “Come back when you have some life experience”, I’ve often heard people say about such people. I know people that have lived through more than anyone should have to in a lifetime, so before you judge an entire population remember to respect people’s individual journeys. A lot of young people have a great deal of insight into what’s happening and their opinions are just as valid as a middle aged professor or political commentator.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we can’t help what time we were born into. Am I really expected to live in the 50s because otherwise I “wouldn’t know what real work is”? If at 60 you’re using an iPhone and watching television, I think you’ve left the 50s too; as you should, that’s your right for living to 2014. Embracing the things you were born into is not something to be belittled or compared for purposes of criticism.

So what is it that you want from me? Not to go to university/TAFE when I worked incredibly hard to get there would make me miserable. I’d be forced to take an unskilled job that I don’t really like just in the name of “contributing”. Then, I’d probably be subject to snobbery and judgement about that too. A friend of mine told me the other day at work she overheard a mother telling her child that “this is what happens if you don’t work hard at school” referring to my friend’s cashier job at Big W. Hmm, that to me is the worst kind of snobbery and is the alternative to student criticism. I’m failing to see what is desired of me, so I say we stop caring.

If society is so sure in their opinions that we’re entitled, unappreciative brats who don’t care about anything but themselves, I say: Give em hell guys.I never seem to change anyone’s mind not matter how much I prove otherwise. So let’s stop caring. Never stop making noise, making your voice heard, and finding your dream. Your are just as good as the next person and if you want it and are willing to work and fight for it, you can have it. Since we can’t win anyway, let’s embrace those who reward our hard work and not give time to those who tell us we’re not worth it. We are, and like it or not one day we’ll be working your jobs, running your company, and your country. It’s not entitlement, it’s the way of the world. It’s the passing of time. And to those who base their opinions on the individual and not hurtful generalisations, I thank you. You’re the person I want to learn from, the person I want as my boss or my mentor.

Now let’s go hit the books for another semester, it’s one closer to the finish…and awesome hats

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