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A letter to my students

Michael O'Hare

Welcome to Berkeley, probably still the best public university in the world. Meet your classmates, the best group of partners you can find anywhere. The percentages for grades on exams, papers, etc. in my courses always add up to 110% because that’s what I’ve learned to expect from you, over twenty years in the best job in the world.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that you have been the victims of a terrible swindle, denied an inheritance you deserve by contract and by your merits. And you aren’t the only ones; victims of this ripoff include the students who were on your left and on your right in high school but didn’t get into Cal, a whole generation stiffed by mine. This letter is an apology, and more usefully, perhaps a signal to start demanding what’s been taken from you so you can pass it on with interest.

Swindle – what happened? Well, before you were born, Californians now dead or in nursing homes made a remarkable deal with the future. (Not from California? Keep reading, lots of this applies to you, with variations.) They agreed to invest money they could have spent on bigger houses, vacations, clothes, and cars into the world’s greatest educational system, and into building and operating water systems, roads, parks, and other public facilities, an infrastructure that was the envy of the world. They didn’t get everything right: too much highway and not enough public transportation. But they did a pretty good job.

Young people who enjoyed these ‘loans’ grew up smarter, healthier, and richer than they otherwise would have, and understood that they were supposed to “pay it forward” to future generations, for example by keeping the educational system staffed with lots of dedicated, well-trained teachers, in good buildings and in small classes, with college counselors and up-to-date books. California schools had physical education, art for everyone, music and theater, buildings that looked as though people cared about them, modern languages and ancient languages, advanced science courses with labs where the equipment worked, and more. They were the envy of the world, and they paid off better than Microsoft stock. Same with our parks, coastal zone protection, and social services.

This deal held until about thirty years ago, when for a variety of reasons, California voters realized that while they had done very well from the existing contract, they could do even better by walking away from their obligations and spending what they had inherited on themselves. “My kids are finished with school; why should I pay taxes for someone else’s? Posterity never did anything for me!” An army of fake ‘leaders’ sprang up to pull the moral and fiscal wool over their eyes, and again and again, your parents and their parents lashed out at government (as though there were something else that could replace it) with tax limits, term limits, safe districts, throw-away-the-key imprisonment no matter the cost, smoke-and-mirrors budgeting, and a rule never to use the words taxes and services in the same paragraph.

Now, your infrastructure is falling to pieces under your feet, and as citizens you are responsible for crudities like closing parks, and inhumanities like closing battered women’s shelters. It’s outrageous, inexcusable, that you can’t get into the courses you need, but much worse that Oakland police have stopped taking 911 calls for burglaries and runaway children. If you read what your elected officials say about the state today, you’ll see things like “California can’t afford” this or that basic government function, and that “we need to make hard choices” to shut down one or another public service, or starve it even more (like your university). Can’t afford? The budget deficit that’s paralyzing Sacramento is about $500 per person; add another $500 to get back to a public sector we don’t have to be ashamed of, and our average income is almost forty times that. Of course we can afford a government that actually works: the fact is that your parents have simply chosen not to have it.

I’m writing this to you because you are the victims of this enormous cheat (though your children will be even worse off if you don’t take charge of this ship and steer it). Your education was trashed as California fell to the bottom of US states in school spending, and the art classes, AP courses, physical education, working toilets, and teaching generally went by the board. Every year I come upon more and more of you who have obviously never had the chance to learn to write plain, clear, English. Every year, fewer and fewer of you read newspapers, speak a foreign language, understand the basics of how government and business actually work, or have the energy to push back intellectually against me or against each other. Or know enough about history, literature, and science to do it effectively! You spent your school years with teachers paid less and less, trained worse and worse, loaded up with more and more mindless administrative duties, and given less and less real support from administrators and staff.

Many of your parents took a hike as well, somehow getting the idea that the schools had taken over their duties to keep you learning, or so beat-up working two jobs each and commuting two hours a day to put food on the table that they couldn’t be there for you. A quarter of your classmates didn’t finish high school, discouraged and defeated; but they didn’t leave the planet, even if you don’t run into them in the gated community you will be tempted to hide out in. They have to eat just like you, and they aren’t equipped to do their share of the work, so you will have to support them.

You need to have a very tough talk with your parents, who are still voting; you can’t save your children by yourselves. Equally important, you need to start talking to each other. It’s not fair, and you have every reason (except a good one) to keep what you can for yourselves with another couple of decades of mean-spirited tax-cutting and public sector decline. You’re my heroes just for surviving what we put you through and making it into my classroom, but I’m asking for more: you can be better than my generation. Take back your state for your kids and start the contract again. There are lots of places you can start, for example, building a transportation system that won’t enslave you for two decades as their chauffeur, instead of raising fares and cutting routes in a deadly helix of mediocrity. Lots. Get to work. See you in class!

UPDATE: Like your political science in musical form? Here’s the way people thought about this stuff back in the day, and maybe should again. Bet there’s a good rap along these lines waiting to be born…

Cross-posted from the blog The Reality Based Community.

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Comments to "A letter to my students":
    • Charlie Valentine

      Cuts in Government spending seem to be the major talking point across the globe and education has been effected by this everywhere. But when I look at the Maths (sorry I didn’t go to Berkeley) more money is now spent on all public sectors including Education. The trouble is everything is more expensive now than it was 30 years ago and expectations are higher. When I when to college there were 12 computers in one computer suite, how many are there at Berkeley today? I still managed to pursue a computer related career. Not that 12 computers is adequate to teach now. But with more resources being required by everyone something has got to give and I have never seen a political party voted in by pledging to hike up taxes, no mater which generation we talk about.

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    • Connor

      A well written essay, though errant as it may be. I completely agree that my parents generation has totally dropped the ball, but for reasons well beyond the scope of this letter. The fact is, spending on public education (per capita) has been on the rise for years. Don’t believe me? Check it yourselves. The real crime against my generation has been the decline of a public virtue and a feeling of entitlement. I see it everywhere. The government programs put in place to “help the poor” have done little more than alleviated the burden of the collective conscience of the populace. Why care for a neighbor in need if the government will take care of him for me? The moral decay, along with reckless spending has left an entire generation the job of cleaning up the mess of the baby boomers.

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    • Finbar

      I for one am proud to be spending full price for my child to have the opportunity to be exposed to thinkers like Doctor O’Hare. If the present public discourse had any long-term view we would value investment in infrastructure and intellect (through education) over some simplistic view of deficit reduction and racial blame. Go Bears and Go Professor!

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    • Peter Lydon

      I’m writing from across the big blue pond. I think the Professor has written an eloquent argument that is worthy of school textbooks.
      It would be very easy to chop at the trees in the Professors argument all the while failing to see the forest. The analogy works perfectly well for the sad sorry mess both California and the US has gotten itself into. Chopping down one tree won’t destroy the forest; nor will cutting taxes by 1% destroy the income base of the State. But if you chop enough trees and slash enough 1%s pretty soon you ahve nothing left. Guess what – you have nothing left. It doesn’t matter about the details. The overall fact remains. You have nothing left.
      Should you keep cutting public spending to balance the budget – sure – but you will have nothing left. The arithmetic is as inescapable as death. If the State does not raise revenue, then it will have no revenue to spend on the things even the most conservative of tea partiers want -highways, a military, reduced crime.
      I think the USA is a great country. Sure, you have your flaws, they all do – still – the US embodies a spirit that is unique on the planet. It is sad to see it being swindled from the inside by people who would have the audacity to stare you in the eye and and they were a ‘patriot’, and worse, to say they were a ‘Christian’. It’s time America stopped saying the pledge of allegiance in schools and instead recited the parable of the good samaritan. For surely, if you don’t hang together……

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    • Steven

      Thank you professor. I am one of those that cut off funding to California. I’m sorry it has taken it’s toll. Had to use fiscal napalm to root out the cockroaches. You see professor, illegal students are worth money to the cal system. Every student in those seats brings money into the districts. Making it hard for legal students like my daughter to get all her classes. Started out rough a few years ago but this year the herd has thinned and she got all her classes. I’m sorry that you and the California education system didn’t have the guts to guard the gate. Now that the system has crashed we can reboot and maybe get rid of a few tenured professors that are getting rusty. Best wishes to you and your family.

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    • Carrie

      I am a little confused, by cutting off funding to every student in California, you think you have solved illegal immigration issues? No concern for having pulled the investment in the future of the entire state of California to spitefully send a message that does nothing but screw almost everyone? I think this is the nature of the professor’s apology- a big “I’m sorry” that people like you were allowed to wreak havoc based on such uneducated, misguided, mean-spirited and flatly stupid conceptions. Good luck in your later years, my dear, because the populace you are unleashing on the state will never be able to take care of you, and will probably rob your retirement to fund their own existence. Thank yourself for your enlightened decision to screw your whole state when it happens.

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      • Michael

        Carrie:
        I know Steven’s line of reasoning made you angry, but you didn’t give him an argument – All you did was essentially say that you were sorry mean-spirited people like him had been allowed to “wreak havoc based on such uneducated, misguided, mean-spirited and flatly stupid conceptions.” What you (and the Professor) failed to realize was that government (and government spending) had grown so much that old people were losing their homes because they couldn’t pay Property and other Taxes which were rising at 2 to 3 times the Rate of Inflation (the actual rate, not the government’s doctored, & lower – Consumer Price Index). The other thing you, the professor & Steven fail to realize is that our much of the money we in CA spend on education goes to Administration (many states which spend less on education actually spend far more money on the students in the classroom), and that our State Legislature has not done in several decades any of the things families throughout the state have done when times were good or bad:
        1) When times were good, the State did not create a “Prudent Reserve” or “Rainy Day Fund” sufficient to carry the state over 2 to 3 years of “lean times”;
        2) When times were good, the State did not negotiate Union Contracts that could survive “Lean-Times”, and work rules that would allow agencies, municipalities, School Districts etc. to operate as efficiently as most of your better private businesses; and
        3) When times were good, the State kept expanding unnecessary programs and trying to raise taxes, instead of trying to improve our State’s infrastructure and educational System;
        4) When there were crisis, such as the San Diego Black-outs in 2000, The Gov. of the State of CA failed to heed the lesson and do what his staff told him he needed to do to prevent the same thing happening to the rest of the State;
        4) The State of California created a Business environment that chased Businesses, and Employers, out of the State of California – That continued through the years of the worst Recession since the Great Depression. This continued in spite of the fact that California has had the 2nd highest Unemployment Rate in the Country and the fact that this has cost the State at least $50 Billion in GDP & $3 Billion in Total Tax Receipts per year from 2007 to 2011! and,
        5) Our State Legislature and our Governor have Failed to PRIORITIZE the budget, to decide to pay for those things the State Government needs to do and to not pay for those things other entities (individuals, families, churches, communities etc.) could not only do better , but could also pay for if we actually allowed them to do so…
        Remember, the Government is only a part of our “Social Compact” – Most of our Social Contract is with each other. It is not the government’s job to help my neighbor – It’s my job…

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    • Rick

      From my prospective as a Cal State University graduate student I see that the system is fraught with bureaucracy. I have to fill out 6 forms just to register every semester. Half of these forms exist because of liability concerns or they are an attempt to get people to their job. Then there are leagues of staffers to process all the forms. Forms and policy statements do not supplant solid leadership and management skills. Until we have leaders with the right skill set for their position we will continue to have more forms to fill out and check-boxes to check, leaving less time and energy to perform the primary task of education and shunting more money to employing staffers rather than professors and research.

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    • Karen

      I love the debate around this subject, the challenges, disagreements etc but I have to say, I find the post from Richard on Feb 2nd really sinister. That good ole McCarthyism still clings vividly onto the fear of the far right. Where a voice like that is present, the ghosts of informers in Nazi Germany or Communist Russia, are stirring in the USA. Frightening – but at least it is revealed. Keep shining a light people, then these fear-mongers will be flushed out of their darkness.

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    • Anthony St. John '63

      Karen, Prof. O’Hare is indeed a unique, role model class UC professor that the rest of the UC Ivory Tower aristocrats need to emulate ASAP before the California population turns completely against UC because of their “Let Them Eat Cake” culture of arrogance that is rapidly sinking further into irrelevancy because of their increasing failures to serve the educational needs of Californians in a rapidly changing world.

      California used to be the greatest state in the world, but we have lost our competitive advantages because UC Powers That Be have failed to meet the challenges of change.

      History proves over and over again that any culture that marginalizes the people they serve long enough become the cause of their own extinction.

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    • Richard

      This type of teacher is why Berkeley, once a great school of innovation has become synonymous with out-of-touch liberalism.

      And today’s progressives would lead one to believe that indoctrination of the youth doesn’t exist.

      Scary stuff. This guy should be watched. Better, replaced with someone more open minded.

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    • Carrie

      Out of touch liberals? 70% of the wealth of this country is held by 10% of the population and this professor is out of touch? The Amerian public, as segregated family units each desperately trying to hold onto whatever it is that they have or have managed not to lose as of yet, has bought into the rhetoric of the super rich- that anyone trying to fund education systems (who by the way produce the public that will be charged with taking care of us when WE are are old) is evil and stealing the wealth of families. In reality what education and other necessary public services need is so minimal, and what the super rich are doing at the top is epic. The bank bailouts, the tax related corporate welfare- those are the big numbers. Education, basic social services, they aren’t. The bank bailouts, a corporate welfare culture? THAT is where your money is lost. Just ask Warren Buffet and George Soros- they ARE the super rich, and they are trying to tell the American public how ridiculously coddled they are by the financial system. Or the CEO of Starbucks, who now has 100 corporations on board……..

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    • Milan Moravec

      UC Berkeley’s recent elimination of popular sports programs highlighted endemic problems in the university’s management. Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s eight-year fiscal track record is dismal indeed. He would like to blame the politicians in Sacramento, since they stopped giving him every dollar he has asked for, and the state legislators do share some responsibility for the financial crisis. But not in the sense he means.

      A competent chancellor would have been on top of identifying inefficiencies in the system and then crafting a plan to fix them. Compentent oversight by the Board of Regents and the legislature would have required him to provide data on problems and on what steps he was taking to solve them. Instead, every year Birgeneau would request a budget increase, the regents would agree to it, and the legislature would provide. The hard questions were avoided by all concerned, and the problems just piled up to $150 million….until there was no money left.

      It’s not that Birgeneau was unaware that there were, in fact, waste and inefficiencies in the system. Faculty and staff have raised issues with senior management, but when they failed to see relevant action taken, they stopped. Finally, Birgeneau engaged some expensive ($3 million) consultants, Bain & Company, to tell him what he should have been able to find out from the bright, engaged people in his own organization.

      From time to time, a whistleblower would bring some glaring problem to light, but the chancellor’s response was to dig in and defend rather than listen and act. Since UC has been exempted from most whistleblower lawsuits, there are ultimately no negative consequences for maintaining inefficiencies.

      In short, there is plenty of blame to go around. But you never want a serious crisis to go to waste. An opportunity now exists for the UC president, Board of Regents, and California legislators to jolt UC Berkeley back to life, applying some simple check-and-balance management principles. Increasing the budget is not enough; transforming senior management is necessary. The faculty, students, staff, academic senate, Cal. alumni, and taxpayers await the transformation.

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    • Howard Griffith

      Michael O’Hare has correctly diagnosed our culture’s malady. I have just a dynamite book by Paul Nevins, a lawyer who lives in Boston. His book is The Politics of Selfishness and it seems to address a number of the same questions which concern Professor O’Hare. The book looks at the reasons for the inability of our political system of the United States to respond to the existing problems, despite the evidence of widespread suffering, disillusionment and anxiety among the American populace. Nevins’ book also predicts, based upon the existing evidence which is examined, that, if left uncorrected, things are likely to get even worse.

      The author explores a theme which runs throughout American history, politics, economics and law. The central thesis of this important and unconventional work is that the United States has begun to experience a number of profound, interrelated problems that are caused, both directly and indirectly, by our dogmatic and often unconscious adherence, collectively as a political culture and individually as Americans, to the political philosophy of John Locke. That ideology, which is the bedrock upon which the American liberal democracy has been founded, asserts that human beings are by nature solitary, aggrandizing individuals. Hence, preoccupation with the self in all of its manifestations and attributes – as opposed to the whole, the public interest – has become the primary focus by which political, economic and societal decisions are made. Consequently, the preferred form of social and political relationships with others, including the state as the organized expression of political society, is solely contractual and is designed primarily to protect private property in all of its forms.

      The Politics of Selfishness provides compelling historic and contemporary evidence that our institutions, at all levels, are failing because of our uncritical embrace of the anti-social individualism which is John Locke’s legacy. As such, the book documents the malaise so evocatively described by Jonathan Franzen in his most recent work of fiction, Freedom: The Novel.

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    • Dave P

      Nice effort, professor, and and thank you from the bottom of my black little 5th-grade-drop-out-cum-debt-ridden-university-graduate heart. This essay should be printed on large, thick paper, which can then be rolled up and used to beat senseless the Baby Boomers and their own hideous parents, the Greatest (sic) Generation. Lewis Lapham once described their spat as a struggle between “a generation that didn’t want to grow old and another that didn’t want to grow up.” And that orgy of self-absorption bore great dividends: Robert Parry called Reagan’s ’80 campaign message “an invitation to repudiate reality.” Mission accomplished, I would say.

      But this fine essay isn’t the first such effort. In 2003, Sam Smith at Progressive Review wrote “An Apology To Younger Americans.” http://prorev.com/apology.htm

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    • Jack

      Eisenhower’s statement was “Beware of the military, industrial and Congressional complex”. The politicians made Eisenhower remove his caution about Congress people.

      Who is responsible for our current financial collapse? Who is investigating the investigators? What laws did Congress pass to ‘make’ business loan money for mortgages to people who could not afford them? How did we responsible citizens end up with the bill for the Congressionally legislated Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac that securitized those loans? – Congress

      Why has it been that in the past forty years labor unions for teachers, and the growth of tenure to every college professor, not just for the peer reviewed, research faculty of the top Universities as was its original design, been hidden from students and parents? These unions (teachers and tenure), in addition to business, financed the elections of self centered politicians and were rewarded.

      Who has most benefitted in public schools in K-12 and Higher Education from the explosion of costs and the deterioration of learning? Faculty and teachers in the pursuit of their own economic gain as well as the administration of these institutions have taken the money. Thirty years ago, most faculty, teachers and administrators cared about students’ learning. Today most faculty and teachers, led by unions, care about their own salaries and benefits.

      Why is it a surprise that today the citizens of the United States have much lower respect for and confidence in politicians and educators? The citizens have seen the disparity between the words of the gifted speakers and their behaviors. Do not listen to what they say. Look at what they do.

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    • Lynn

      “Who has most benefitted in public schools in K-12 and Higher Education from the explosion of costs and the deterioration of learning? Faculty and teachers in the pursuit of their own economic gain as well as the administration of these institutions have taken the money. Thirty years ago, most faculty, teachers and administrators cared about students’ learning. Today most faculty and teachers, led by unions, care about their own salaries and benefits.”

      This paragraph is absolutely ridiculous. Teachers, on average, make much less than your average professional with the same amount of schooling. On top of that, teachers work a lot harder than those other professionals, juggling five or six class loads of apathetic young people, with an ever-increasing amount of paperwork taking away from the time one needs to actually prepare to teach those young people. Yes, teachers get off in the summer, but anyone who’s ever taught knows that one needs that time to maintain one’s sanity. The workload would be unbearable otherwise. I don’t know anyone who got into the teaching profession for the money. That would be stupid. And even many of those who got into teaching for the right reasons don’t make it. Most teachers quit in the first seven years. The stereotype of the lazy, greedy teacher is a figment of the imaginations of right wing fascists. Anyone who believes it is either uninformed or holding the belief for political reasons. It’s not based on reality.

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      • Carrie

        This is dead on. Criticisms of teachers are borne of those who want such criticisms to be true so a to support their political platforms, often because Americans are horrifically inadequate at examining their own viewpoints. Most set them at about eighteen, then spend sixty years defending them (whether they hold water or not). The they make arguments about things they know absolutely nothing about so as to support these stubborn platforms. I’ve been known to change my viewpoints easily, in the face of clear evidence, and am utterly disturbed by how often I amaccused of “blowing with the wind” because someone shows me how a predicate on which my assumptions were based is inaccurate, and I accordingly adjust. Americans on the whole respect steadfast adherence to viewpoints over informed decision-making. SCARY. In terms of teachers though, the vast majority that I have encountered work ten to twelve hour days for ridiculous salaries. In Arizona very few teachers make over $40,000, due to salary freezes now near fifteen years old. However, the cost of living in this state puts such a salary (especially when student loans figure in) in the poverty range- and yet these people work ten to twelve hours a day, and from what I have seen, most of them through the summer often doing jobs such as waiting tables, running cocktails or working at grocery stores-
        to make ends meet. Those who are critical have so little clue what they are talking about, and are spewing such nastiness towards some of the only people left in society who still care about everyone else, that it is truly heart-breaking.

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    • Michael Robertson

      California now spends 55% of its ENTIRE budget on education. That’s a higher percentage than ever. Every level of education has seen spending grow every year more than doubling even adjusted for inflation over the last 20 years. So any notion that we’re spending less is intellectually dishonest.

      The author is either ignorant or attempting to deceive the public.

      – MR

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    • Michael Robertson

      Look at the data. Spending at UCB has gone up *every* single year. Dwn years/up years, UCB is getting more money and spending it.

      Spending per student has grown much faster than inflation. This refutes the Professor’s argument that we’re not “investing” in education.

      https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AtQqjKGFVBWBdFU2allyMlBzdGZmZVpabThISW80M0E&hl=en

      Year Budget Growth rate Students Cost per student
      2009 $3,358,065,000 5.84% 35,843 $93,688
      2008 $3,172,764,000 6.25% 35,409 $89,603
      2007 $2,986,143,000 4.30% 34,953 $85,433
      2006 $2,863,161,000 4.34% 33,933 $84,377
      2005 $2,744,000,000 5.26% 33,588 $81,696
      2004 $2,607,000,000 7.68% 32,814 $79,448
      2003 $2,421,000,000 6.42% 33,076 $73,195
      2002 $2,275,000,000 33,145 $68,638

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    • richard

      Thank you for bringing this to the attention of the students who I hope weren’t tweeting, texting and facebooking while you spoke. California is on a bad track, a destructive road. I hope teachers like you remain in the system so that the system gets righted or at least has a chance. Teach our children well!

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    • Teresa McGuire

      I agree in spirit with the good Professor, a 1970s graduate from one of Michigan’s flagship public universities at about the end of the era of America’s generational middle class contract. In my limited view, the blame cannot be lain only at the doorstep of selfish, spoiled baby-boomers. Of course, that was also the generation of marchers, protesters and voters who raised consciousness brought us statutory civil rights and environmental protections. What corrupted this altrusism-laced capitalism which, under guided trajectory, which have hurled us toward alternative energy sources and magnetic bullet trains, was a culture of greed and myopia across both institutions and generations.

      Where there is no vision, the people perish, goes the axiom. If the venerable American standard of living is at risk it is because there has been no palpable vision of what 21st century America should look like. Instead, there are a mini leaders and talking heads tugging at the patchwork of fabric that comprises the American quilt. Some want to privatize this or that, eliminate public funding for education, health care services, mass transportation, safety net protection; others want to incrementally add funding to such programs. Nobody articulates a vision, a mission statement for the nearly 300 million people who share political boundaries and whose civics increasingly lack common denominator.

      Where there is no civic vision, we have all become prey to the base predatory instincts of corporations, who now have constitutionally-sanctioned rights to move about the cabin with all the rights of a natural person and none of the responsibilities. These abstractions now rule us all. Their commercial values are rapidly supplanting our human ones.

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    • Eileen

      I count myself among those few in my generation willing to give on behalf of the next. We don’t like to admit it but there’s a cost to California innovations like Prop 13. I’m a native, a product of the best public schools ever, including your sister school, UCLA, and I weep at the state of my state. I’m talking to my kids; please continue talking to your students!!!

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    • Bob

      Did you intentionally fail to mention the destructive effect that Teachers Unions have and continue to have on the education system all over the nation,…not just in Berkeley….? I taught Jr. College for seventeen years, and fought the union every step of the way while watching other teachers…good members of the union, keep their classes restricted in every way they could:… fight doing anything the union wouldn’t allow,…even keeping students out of classes when they arrived a minute late; all the while refusing to spend any time other than allowed by the union when it came to helping students,…and none of this had a thing to do with how much taxes anyone paid,,,.They only wanted Tenure. Like I’m sure you have. Especially so that they could not be removed from teaching with an atomic bomb. You forgot to mention those wonderful teachers and their education ruining unions.

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    • Anthony

      Separate the people from the substance. Many of the arguments made, though thoughtful and insightful are being lost due to personal attacks and anger. California, has for a long time now, been very progressive. As the media puts it, we are a blue state. This should be of no surprise to anyone. Yelling at each other, as our elected officials prove on a daily basis, gets us no where. So, perhaps an elevated discussion based on the substance would be more beneficial. There are opinions and then there are facts.

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    • Katherine Kaye

      This morning, on BBC Radio 4’s flagship programme, Today, John le Carre (David Cornwell) waxed eloquent on the same issue whioch Eisenhower raised at the end of his presidncy: the way in which the US maintains a huge standing army, and the industries which depend on it, by creating enemies against which we can wage war. The money we could have spent on social necessities – schools, bridges, levees, maths, drug rehabilitation, clean water and air, all those “luxuries” we can’t afford – has been diverted.

      However, Professor O’Hare, what do you reckon the most effective ways of creating change might be? Yes, voting – but based on what information, given the chatterboxes funded by wealthy twin brothers and mad fundamentalists of all faiths, or none?

      We know we have work to do: but how best to do it?

      Cheers, and thanks for the wake-up call.

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    • John

      Sir, these are very healing words, as I’ve already become aware of all that you are stating some years ago (born in ’73), but never a straight-up acknowledgment of these facts from a member of your generation. Thanks!

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    • Craig

      Well said, Professor O’Hare. If this trend is not reversed, and soon, the situation will become even more dire as the United States falls from the leader of the first world to just another second rate second world country.

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    • Rob

      This professor is myopic in scope. Run a STATA Scatter chart to see that throwing more money into schools doesn’t create better schools. however, The ME generation did screw-up the USA. Too libertine, and self-righteous, frankly lazy. Worst of all, they accepted the concept of mass guilt and applied it to “western society” as a whole. that’s the me generations biggest failure, lack of pride, spine, and drive. From an Abortion-survivor generation child , aka generation-Xer

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    • Ella

      Oh please, not everyone from the “me” generation was seduced by unmitigated greed. You may be to young to know that there were/are many who still write letters to the editor, congress, and the president and if no is listening, we have and will march peacefully in the streets. Soon it will be the next generations turn to protect America’s future.

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