Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Message on sign:
February 7 - February 8, 2011

Thanks for inspiration to Ran Prieur who suggested the sign: "WHAT DOES 'DESERVE' MEAN?"
Other signs on the Quad: none

Monday, February 7 was the day of the "Rally to Restore Funding" designed to rally support and collect signatures to lobby the state legislature not to cut funding for education. I stood with my sign facing the crowd of just over 100 students gathered on Red Square for a few minutes to hear one speaker unconscionably equate their cause to Martin Luther King's appeal to conscience. A female speaker ended the rally by pointing the microphone at the crowd and having it chant back in unison: "Go...GO!...Huskies...HUSKIES!" Write-ups of the rally with photos are here and here. Other signs displayed at the rally included: "WHAT'S A DAWG PACK WITHOUT ITS DAWGZ?" and the particularly cleverly-worded: "BARK".

Reactions to the sign:

Many people seemed to take offense without bothering to come up to ask me what was meant by the sign. One surly man walked by and growled out an indignant "Yes." I suppose those angered by the sign had not been educated enough to realize it was suggesting that they might not deserve the education they mistakenly thought they were getting.

Apparently some assumed the sign implied that students deserve an education and saw it as a call for education funding not to be cut.

Without exception everyone agreed they deserved an education. Some felt that they deserved an education to the extent that they themselves pursued or worked towards it, that is that there was an element of personal responsibility involved and that education should not be seen as an entitlement. No one said there were people who didn't deserve an education, and that if there were people who deserved one who didn't get it, that was due to the fact that simply because something is right doesn't mean it always happens. When asked: "If you deserve an education why do you have to pay for it?" some were at a loss to say why. Others said educators need to be paid for what they do.

Most assumed the word "education" on the sign meant a university education. When asked why they should pay for class lectures they can see for free on the internet, many said that the university gives them discipline. They agreed, without qualms and without irony, that it was in their interest to pay someone to force them to learn. 

One student said: "I think I deserve a better education."

Notable events:

I was able to observe some instances of the spread of the meme of the sign's message:

- a girl walking by called out to her girlfriend walking in the other direction: "Hey, Anna"; "What?"; "You deserve an education"; "Thank you."

- a chalkboard was being carried by three students across the Quad which read: "down with budget cuts. up with education". The students saw my sign and when they carried the chalkboard past in the other direction five minutes later it had been changed to read: "We deserve an education".

For a complete transcript of discussions with people about this sign (or at least as complete as memory would allow), see here, February 7-8.

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