We shouldn’t be paying people to go to school

Here’s an interesting blog on the relationship between the state and the population. In it, ContentedLibDem takes on the defenders of the EMA (an allowance paid to children from low- and middle-income homes to encourage them to keep going to sixth-form college). He points to the title of a recent Guardian article on the consequences of cancelling it: How to turn 60,000 students into unqualified drop outs.

The problem with this? That it is “based on a profoundly regressive and demoralising belief – the belief that the government [is] all powerful, that individuals are cogs in a machine, passive recipients of government largesse or stinginess, unable utterly to make a difference to their own lives. With one sweep of a pen, government can transform 60,000 otherwise hard-working and intelligent students into ‘unqualified drop-outs'”.

This isn’t true – the loss of £30 a week, a sum that only started being handed over in the 1990s anyway – just isn’t, or certainly shouldn’t be, enough to make every sixth former suddenly stay at home watching Neighbours twice a day instead of looking to their futures.

But the point ContentedLibDem makes most clearly is that if we keep connecting any type of success to taxpayer handouts like this, we end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy. Note the comments on the Save EMA blog. An example? “EMA should not be stopped because people won’t want to come to college. I need my EMA because this gives me an insentive [sic] to learn.”

So being educated isn’t an incentive in itself? Getting a good job and creating a future isn’t an incentive in itself?