Dear Michael Gove,
You said something I actually agree with on Sunday. You went on the BBC and said “I believe fundamentally that the purpose of government policy is to support everyone equally, and if you don’t benefit from a university education, you shouldn’t have to pay additionally to support those who do.”
I never thought I would find myself agreeing with you. But here I am. Written down in black and white, that is a statement I agree with. I think when we get into the nuance though, I might find we differ. For example, personally, I think part of supporting everyone equally is knowing that you will have to support everyone differently to give them the same opportunities. Some people need more support on some things, and accepting that is ok. People aren’t going to accuse you of unfairness if you give a little more support to the people who need a little more support. Let’s say Billy has diabetes, and Geoff doesn’t. If you give Billy and Geoff both diabetes medication, I’m not really sure that counts as supporting them equally. Sure, you’re giving them both the same things, but for one of them it’s necessary to live, and for one of them it isn’t. Maybe Billy earns double the amount Geoff earns, but Billy and Geoff pay the same amount in tax. It’s the same, but it’s not really “supporting everyone equally” is it? Because Geoff has less money leftover to pay for rent, or food, or luxury items, like, I don’t know, tampons.
But I digress. Back to agreeing with you. People who don’t benefit from a university education shouldn’t put money towards it. Thing is. I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t benefit from a university education. I don’t think you do either. I’m pretty sure that the university education I have benefitted most from in my life is not my own. Mine was great, it DID benefit me greatly, I wouldn’t wish it away. But did it benefit me more than my parents’ university educations did? More than the university education of my teachers, and lecturers? Without them I wouldn’t have got to university in the first place. Heck, without them I wouldn’t have the skills to even write you this letter. I think I benefit more from my ability to read and write than the three years I spent at uni. Other university educations I benefit from (many probably more than my own) include: people I have worked for, every doctor and nurse I have ever encountered, people researching global warming and ways to slow it, people researching cancer, dementia, and other illness and how to cure them, people researching mental illness and ways to make it manageable, any therapist I have dealt with, scientists in general, the vet I take my cat to, the people who make policy in this country (well, ok. Some of them. I’m not sure I count you or your friends in that Michael), the journalists who help me keep track of what those policy makers are up to, those in charge of our national security who do things I will never know about, any of the wonderful authors, actors, directors, musicians or general creative types I look up to who also went to university, the accountant I may someday need, the lawyer I may someday need, probably a million other people I have forgotten about.
If you told me tomorrow that I could have my time again and go to university for free, or I could not go at all and put money towards all of those other people going I wouldn’t hesitate. I would send them. Crappy deal, I know – but is it really? Because I’m pretty sure we need them for our society to function, for us to be as privileged and fortunate in this country as we are.
So yes, I think you’re right. It’s only fair for the people who benefit from a university education to pay for it. But fuck you if you think that isn’t every single person in this country.
In fact Gove, just fuck you.