About those students: they aren’t asking for the moon. They aren’t asking for cost of living grants, cars, housing, food, or even books. They are asking for knowledge; the fruits of their own culture that should belong to everybody, free. The only reason I can think of to deny someone the opportunity to learn about the world that they live in is power: to keep the power of knowledge in the hands of the chosen, and out of the hands of the workers.
Many times in history it has been illegal to teach certain classes of people to read. We’re more subtle here. We call knowledge a commodity and put a price on it. By controlling the price of access, we control who gets it. Training in working class (service and building trades) jobs for working class kids; a business degree for the business class. Liberal arts? Maybe a few wealthy dillitantes will take it up as a hobby, like crochet.
I feel passionately about learning, teaching, the preservation and expansion of knowledge. Also about the power of social sciences and humanities to help us to do better in shaping and leading society. Maybe even saving the world.
Give the students what they want. Give anybody who is willing to give their time and effort to learning access to the knowledge, for God’s sake. It belongs to them (and us) already. Tuition needs to become outdated terminology. Surely we afford to collectively pick up the tab for passing along our collectively gathered knowledge and cultural commons to the next generation. Surely we can’t afford not to."