Terry Jones: Let's make infants pay for their schooling

It makes me sick! To think of all those future fat cats benefiting from my taxes. Make 'em pay for it

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The theory behind Tony Blair's top-up fees is that the only people who benefit from education are those who receive it and that therefore they should be the ones to pay for it. The concept is as revolutionary as it is exciting. Back in the dark old days people misguidedly thought that somehow society as a whole might benefit from the education of its citizens.

In the Italian town of Lucca, in 1347, for example, the town governors provided every citizen who wished to study law or medicine in Bologna with the funds to do so, on the grounds that they wished "to fill the city of Lucca with virtuous men".

But of course now we know better. It is obvious that the only people who benefit financially from the activities of doctors are the doctors themselves - so why should any of us subsidise their education?

It's the same with scientists. There are really good jobs out there just waiting for people with degrees in chemistry and physics, and since getting a decent job is the only aim of science nowadays it is ridiculous to expect other people to contribute to the good fortune of those who are already so lucky.

And just look at brain surgeons and heart specialists. They make an absolute packet out of their rackets. Some of them have nice big houses and drive smart cars. Quite a few of them go on holidays to the Mediterranean and even on cruises.

Why should you or I, who have no medical qualifications whatsoever, underwrite their future lifestyle while they are studying?

It makes me sick! To think of all those future fat cats benefiting from my taxes. Make 'em pay for it - that's what I say. Good for you, Tony, for sticking up for all of us who have spent less time gaining knowledge.

But why don't you take the idea further, Tone? You could apply the same principle in all sorts of areas. Take policemen for example.

Being a copper is a good steady job with reasonable prospects so why should the rest of us have to subsidise their training? It's a scandal that, at present, perfectly able-bodied men and women are being trained to be officers of the law at the taxpayers' expense!

Why shouldn't those who want to become policemen work a bit harder and do an evening job to pay for their training - or else the cost of the training should be taken off their wage packets once they start on the beat.

Come to think of it, joining the army is a bit of a doddle - once you're trained you've got a nice career all mapped out for you, with guaranteed pay rises and lots of security (provided you're not drafted to Iraq). So let's get soldiers paying back their training while they fight.

Of course the citizens of 14th-century Lucca might have argued that some citizens could benefit from having a few soldiers to defend the town - or even doctors to cure the sick.

But such an argument misses the fundamental revelation that lies behind Tony Blair's thinking on education. Tony's great insight is that education is all about making money. Higher education, as Tony sees it, is simply a passport to higher wages, and there is no earthly point in subsidising those lucky enough to receive higher education.

Let's get rid of all these parasites on society - like soldiers, engineers, doctors, nurses, social workers - unless they are prepared to pay for the training that provides them with the lifestyle to which they aspire.

Top-up fees are the mark of a new kind of society - the kind of society that refuses to be taken for a ride by people with any sort of education or basic training. What is more, top-up fees are, in themselves, a splendid form of training for life in our present society. There cannot be any more appropriate way to introduce our young folk into the world of Blairite Thatcherism than by getting them to start out in life with a debt hanging round their necks.

Why give them a glimpse of a fool's paradise in which they can pay their way, when most of them are eventually going to end up in hock anyway. Get them started as they're going to end up and let's squash all those old-fashioned ideas about "living within your means".

Let us embrace debt. Debt is the great lubricant of our social machine. It is essential to our whole system and the sooner our youngsters get used to it the better.

So, I say, let's back Tony's top-up fees to the hilt. Let's get the idea of debt ingrained into everyone right from the word go. Let's make infants and juniors pay back all those costs of elementary education once they get into secondary school.

Let's get babies charged for the cost of being born. Let's help Tony create a society that lives in debt, is educated into debt and that finally gets to understand that Debt is Good.

The author is a writer and comedian

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