WHO CARES ABOUT THE KIDS?

Published October 8, 2004

It used to be the case that seeing somebody famous, and I mean somebody really famous, somebody foreign and famous, was something people would talk about for the rest of their natural lives.

These days, you hardly bat an eye if you see Forest Whitaker at the bar or Bill Clinton eating a hot dog outside your office window. For the past ten years international stars have been coming here in increasing numbers. At first they would mostly hang around in bars but by now quite a few of them have become gainfully employed. The aforementioned Forest is starring with Julia Styles in the film A Little Trip to Heaven, currently shooting. A part of the film is shot in Reykjavík, so its actors can be seen about town in their time off. The actors of Beowolf are not as fortunate. With shooting taking place in the countryside near Vík í Mýrdal, they must bear the brunt of Icelandic weather extremes wearing Dark Age garb. How does star of the picture Gerard Butler feel about this? Grapevine investigates.

It’s not often that you can mark historical days in the calendar in advance. Next November 2nd, however, will be one of these. Will the majority of the voting citizens of the most powerful country in the world vote for war or peace, sanity or destruction? This is certainly the most important election in our lifetime. However it goes, we’ll all have to live with the consequences. There are two reasonable choices, but which one is better? Grapevine investigates.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the teachers’ strike, at the time of going to press, continues. This will no doubt feed ammunition to those calling for privatisation of the schools. Icelandic society has never been as egalitarian as it appears, the lack of surnames disguising the fact that more often than not, jobs are handed down from parent to child. But still, giving everyone access to equal education does go some way towards giving everyone equal oppertunities. It is an important aspect of our society that must not be compromised.

The University of Iceland has already raised its fee by roughly 25%. The University has always been strapped for cash, being reduced to conduct organised gambling for revenue. There are two possible solutions. One is to allocate more money to the University. This seems an impossibility given the current political climate of putting education last on the list of priorities. The other option is to have entrance exams like the other Nordic countries do. This would exclude some people from higher education, but at least it would admit people on basis of merit. Higher fees, however, can only lead to excluding people on the basis of money rather than merit. I refuse to believe that I live in a society where this is seen to be the best option.

University fees, although still comparatively low, have almost doubled since I first started studying there in 1996. But the rises have been piecemeal, to avoid any outburst of protests. Fees have always been collected at the beginning of autumn, when students had money from their summer jobs. Without any explanation given, this year it was suddenly moved to late winter, when University students are at their poorest. Due to criticism, this was pushed back two months, not that students have any more money then. But the criticisms were silenced by this token change.

The battle over the introduction of school fees is approaching, and I hope students will have the stamina to stick together and fight it.

Meanwhile, the youngest members of society currently have no place in the system. Teaching the children how to become adults should be regarded as the most important job in society. After all, if they fail, so does everything else. And yet, these teachers are paid only a fraction of what CEO’s are paid, even if the latter’s responsibility is only to the bottom line. Meanwhile, in the last 20 years, according to the Wall Street Journal the difference between workers and CEO´s wages have risen from being 40 fold to 400 fold. That doesn´t sound right to be. But then some large corporations do call me a communist.


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