Saturday, May 23, 2009

In which a columnist's unexamined assumptions are mildly irritating.

Michael Coulter of The Age writing about the difference between student poverty and 'real' poverty.

He assumes that all students are young, and have parents who are willing or able to offer them extra financial support. He assumes that working 15 to 20 hours a week has no impact on the student's ability to study. He assumes that students have no other dependants. He assumes that no one struggling in poverty at university will be so stressed, underachieving and anxious that they will drop out because they are so, so tired. He assumes that none of these students are suffering constant illness because of their lack of nutritious diet and lack of warm, safe shelter.

He assumes that students never have unexpected costs or medical emergencies that put additional pressure on their studies and their incomes. He assumes that their families are not struggling in poverty themselves.

If he'd made an argument that income support should be increased for students who desperately need it, while somehow distinguishing from those who don't I might have a little more sympathy. But I've seen enough students struggle so hard because of their financial situations that they end up dropping out and so lose that opportunity to earn more that Coulter thinks makes up for a few years of unsafe housing, poor nutrition and lack of participating in the community.

I do understand his point, and it's not so much that I think he's wrong, that he misunderstands the problems that some students face because of their poverty. Assuming that there is no such thing as real poverty among students is just one more barrier raised in front of people already struggling to get an education.


Man O'Sand said...

I've always found that marriage is the best way to improve your lot as a student.

aztec-rose said...

I think assumptions about students are quite stereotyped. Today as I got on the bus at uni to go home it was enough to show the busdriver my student concession bus card, he asked me to show my student card as well, to prove that i was actually a 'real' student. I wish I had said, haven't you ever heard of mature age students? they do exist you know!

But as for student poverty - it is very real!