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The good thing about Twitter …

January 22, 2016

I started very sceptical about Twitter.  But I’ve come round to it, not because it’s always good to find a few people who agree with you (though it is)  – but because of the opposite thing.  It’s on Twitter that I’ve come across people who disagree with me about student funding, grants, debt etc and are willing to argue about that persistently and robustly but respectfully, too.  In the past week particularly I’ve been been struck by the people who’ve really put time into getting to grips with what can look like a very tricky area. And I’ve found people who agree with me about grants, debt etc but probably don’t agree with me a about a lot of other things.  And all that’s been stimulating and made me think.  Not change my mind, mind you.  I’m only human.

It’s been interesting to discover  that I can’t take the argument very far at all with anyone who only wants to talk about fees. There’s also a limit to how far it’s possible for me to go with someone who’s inclined to play down the issue of grant cuts (so, for example, arguing that poorer students can live at home or get a job or won’t always be poor – which are arguments that have cropped up): we just don’t have enough common ground for a satisfying discussion  on either side.  But it is possible to have a really dense, difficult discussion with anyone who wants to go into the subject of what choices the SG should make faced with a difficult budget – and recognises that cutting student grants is potentially a significant  sort of choice.    I owe one of you  in particular a blog post about all that – it’s half-written, bear with me. (Update: now here.)

I’m not sure anyone’s mind is getting changed here, but making people agree with you about everything is not the whole point of policy debate.  Sometimes it’s just about carving a space where people can have informed, civilised disagreement and learn more about what matters to their fellow citizens, and sharpen their own thinking and arguments.  Against all stereotypes, Twitter is providing the only place I’m aware of in Scotland where that is happening in relation to student funding.  So thank-you to everyone who’s chipped in from every perspective and kept it civil, including those who I suspect have found me a pretty frustrating person to deal with.

All this will be a bit Pollyanna for some. But I spend a lot of my time being grumpy.  I’m allowed to go the other way sometimes too.


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