News - February 23, 2012

Mass student demonstrations are pointless and outdated?

Proposition: Mass student demonstrations are pointless and outdated

Marlies: It is always impossible to say for sure how much demonstrations achieve. If the government changes course, it will never admit that it was in response to protests. But it is clear that large demonstrations help to draw attention to an issue, both among students and in the Netherlands in general. And in political circles of course. Many people don't have much contact with students and they have an image of them as lazy, spoiled boozers. Through mass protests that generate media interest in an issue, we students can at least make our presence felt and make it clear that this image is wrong.
Jillis responds: I think government and society would be more impressed if students came up with protests with more substance to them. The campaign of letters addressed to Zijlstra was about providing arguments, at least, rather than an exercise in mass booing. If you ask me, we have a right to expect more from students than from the average demonstrator. The cabinet's education policy certainly deserves a show of protest, but do it in a dignified manner!
Jillis: There have probably always been demonstrations, but the mass demos in The Hague that we've witnessed a few times recently are outdated. In the hippy era, students demonstrated to their hearts' content: the occupation of the Maagdenhuis in Amsterdam was one of the best known examples. Nowadays - maybe thanks to the romanticism of that period - big demonstrations are still sometimes held, but if you see them on TV, you get a bit depressed. People who have no idea what they are protesting for or against, who look as if they are at the carnival, and who vandalize the town and attack the police after the demonstration. What a spectacle...
Marlies responds: The picture you paint bears no relations to the reality. Of course there are always a few hooligans jumping on the bandwagon, and there are always people who know less about the issues at stake. But I have taken part in many demonstrations and the vast majority of participants are normal students who know exactly what they are talking about and what they are protesting against. Why it should be considered ‘outdated' is beyond me. Why was it OK in the old days for us to speak out and now suddenly it's not anymore?'
Got something to say about this? Go to