I wasn’t going to say anything. I was just going to keep my mouth shut. I spent the entirety of April writing poetry, and feeling okay about myself, about my current station. I discovered charcuterie as a meal. I’ve cut back on my smoking. Spring sprang. Life was good. In the background, the Quebec student strike flickered in philosophical disagreement with much the rest of the country, at least those with jobs and educations already paid for. I kept informed, but remained quiet. Even when under the influence of argument inducing whiskey, the loose lip encouragement of good wine and free vodka, I was, for the most part, silent.
While I supported the virtue of the students protest, I wasn’t entirely on board with them. Their tuition is, comparably, reasonable. But as the month progressed, and my poems got more self-indulgent, I found myself starting to lean more and more to the side of these selfless young people, standing up in Quebec for those who won’t, or can’t, stand up in the rest of Canada. But still I kept it mostly to myself. And then, this morning, Margaret Wente provided her unsolicited thoughts (in the increasingly disappointing Globe and Mail) on the students’ demand for tuition control and responsible spending by post-secondary institutions. And once Wente published her column, and with my month of poetry over, I couldn’t keep quiet anymore. Wente offended me from my slumber. Good morning.
I’ll preface my argument by noting that I hold two degrees from a Quebec university, a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing and an MA in the same disciplines. Was my tuition, as Ms. Wente notes “the lowest tuition fees in all of North America”? Yes. Am I debt free? No, not even close. I’m in better shape than most, but I am underemployed and frustrated both by my university experience and the life I’m trying to build outside of it. But I wouldn’t trade my time in university for anything, and I owe what quiet moments of success I have had to that education, and how it has made me a better writer, a better person, and a better citizen.