Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hot Winter for European Students?

You have probably seen the student riots in Greece in the last 8 days. The Wall Street Journal seems to believe that discontent goes beyond the border of Greece (which it does, especially given the current crisis) but also that there would a sort of pan-European youth conflagration.
.... an uprising that mirrors growing discontent among youths in many European countries over outdated education systems, lack of jobs and a general apprehension about the future.
From Rome to Berlin to Madrid, young people graduate from university much later than their peers in Northern Europe, the U.S. or U.K. When they do, they struggle to find long-term jobs with social-security benefits.
In France too, this has become an issue: left-wing Libération asked: "Can France follow Greece and flare up in turn?"
It may be a bit over dramatic and the situation in Greece is different and in some ways, a lot worse (more corruption for instance) but anxiety about the future is definitely on the rise, and not just with students so who knows what may happen... .
I have always been puzzled by how American students or workers never seem to protest or strike more than they do, let alone riot of course. Of course, there have been riots in the U.S. and rather violent ones, (mostly minorities in the last decade) but not since the 60s have we seen student riots.... and not since the 1930s have workers been massively demonstrating.... Is it likely to change even there if the situation gets worse? I doubt it.
As for Europe, it's a different story.... (it would be too long to explain why). What is certain is that the French government is worried (according to Le Canard, and a few other sources). It is true that French students can be hard to control or negotiate with, and when things start going wrong, it's like a fire out of control which can easily spread to people who are in the demonstrations "for a riot" indeed .
In this ambiance, the current education reforms in school and universities in France are likely to be watered down.... and the government may act with a bit more caution than they had anticipated. It has already started.

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