Since May, massive demonstrations led by both university and high school students demanding greater educational equality and a complete deprivatization of higher education have swept across Chile. Largely unreported in this part of the world, these protests have comprised marches, a two-day general strike, and occupations of high schools and universities. While gaining widespread national support, these demonstrations have also resulted in the death of at least one student, shot by a police sergeant firing into a crowd. The protests hint at a particular unified culture of student unrest rather unlike that in the United States, where the archetypal college student, long defined by Revenge of the Nerds and Animal House, spends more time binge drinking and contracting mono than engaging in politics. Glimmers of such a political movement can perhaps be seen in the involvement of students in Occupy Wall Street. Some may question what college kids, who enjoy the luxury of educational freedom and a lot of spare time on their hands, have to complain about, but, as the movement in Chile shows, student politics are related to politics at large.
Santiago Mitre’s The Student, from neighboring Argentina, suggests that student and national politics can be strange Machiavellian bedfellows. Read Leo Goldsmith’s review of The Student.