Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Article 16

Greece is a country that loves to strike and protest anything and everything, no matter how big or small. While I applaud the verve of Greeks to stand up for what they believe in, there are a few issues – some of the most incendiary, in fact – that my big, fat American belief system calls into question.

Since summer, one of the hot button issues in Greece has been the potential revision of Article 16 of the Greek Constitution, which guarantees a free education at all levels for Greek citizens, along with a cost-of-living subsidy for those in need. One of the revisions calls for the allowance of private universities, which many students and teachers in Greece seem to think would be detrimental competition to the free education Greek students get at public universities. One argument, I suppose, is that economically challenged students wouldn’t have the advantage of paying for a fancy private university, and so they would be at a disadvantage when it comes to job placement because a public university education won’t match that of a private one.

There are a couple of things wrong with this argument. For one, it is basically admitting that public universities here in Greece are crap. They might be, but who is at fault? The students who never attend their classes? The professors, knee deep in a comfortable tenure, that don’t give a damn? If university students want to protest holy hell in the streets of Athens and Thessaloniki, why didn’t they start a long time ago by demanding that their public education was better? More challenging? More competitive in the international job market? I’m all for the gusto of the student protests, but why the hell haven’t they been protesting for what really matters, instead of waiting until the zero hour to protest something that wouldn’t be a problem had they been on top of securing the best university education for themselves at the beginning?

Secondly, and along the same lines, it doesn’t have to be fact that private universities are better than public ones. I know plenty of private institutions in America that aren’t that great, and plenty of state schools that are considered among the best in certain fields. Again, this is something that the students and teachers can change. Students can demand more of their professors, and professors can demand more of their students. Together they can make state education highly competitive and desirable. But you have to really want it to make it work. You have to want a competitive education. You have to attend classes. You have to study hard. You have to rise above a standard of mediocrity. For all the passion the students show in their protests against revisions to Article 16, I don’t know if I believe they really want a competitive education. I think they want the status quo to remain the status quo. And that does no one any good.

The educational system in Greece (as well as most of the rest of the world, including America) needs a major rewrite from top to bottom. Blocking private universities isn’t going to solve any problems. If you want your public education to be better, make it better. But don’t pretend that swimming in the mediocrity is going to achieve anything. Students here deserve better. They just have to want it.

4 comments:

Scruff said...

Outstanding Article Mel!!

Maybe we could somehow trick the Greek student protestors into protesting for better schools by telling them that America was somehow involved in their university failings.

Your blog could be used as the catalyst for this and in a short while we'll see protests against America for Greek University failings. Next thing you know, the "WINDOWS of CONCURRENT MONOLOGUES" will start opening up on the evening TV channels.

Next day, the system gets better.

Ok, I'm kidding everyone before you jump on me!!! But, you have to admit, protesting against America is easier to organize than most anything else in Greece.

bryan-in-greece said...

Spot on, Mel - as in most things, anyway, Greeks seem to think that it doesn't matter if they leave it to the last minute, viz the 2004 Olympic Games fiasco and the present reforms in the medical profession demanded yonks ago by the EU, where they had years to get down to work and yet ended up with massive problems because they farted around for ages. Now that push is coming to shove, students and professors are going to have to wake up and smell the coffee...

Vol Abroad said...

Y'all just keep it the way it is. Now my husband gets high quality Greek students fleeing the Greek system. What will happen if Greek universities get better? The loss of one more niche group of students.

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