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A letter to my students

Michael O'Hare, professor of public policy | August 24, 2010

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.

Comments to “A letter to my students

  1. Yep, that is too bad. It is also too bad the good professor doesn’t address some of the real causes of this, like loss of the manufacturing base in this country to Asia. California used to be the center of a lot of manufacturing, just like Detroit used to be prosperous due to the automobile. So, anyway, enjoy the BMWs and Airbusses. Short sightedness comes in lots of flavors.

  2. have students ever heard of getting a student loan and a job during school. these students were not ripped off. These students grew up in an age of computers and remote controls for the TV. They do not even know what it means to have rabbit ears on a black and white and getting up to change the channel. Too much has been given to these kids. They ARE NOT victims. They are too indulged. Very few kids that I know of who are 18-20 had a job the day they turned 16 and worked. It has been said that California is the land of opportunity. Teachers who are retired make as much money as when they were working and can go back to teaching and still draw from that pension. I do not have that luxury. So kids, this is the real world- you have to pay your dues, get loans, and work instead of sitting around listening to music or being online with your friends. Yes, I came from a different era. I actually read the newspaper and listen to the radio. Try it sometime- and I mean not liberal garbage or hardcore music, but talk radio. You might actually learn something from these two sources of media.
    Now to the not in the real world professor, how dare you get these kids riled up that actually look up to you as an example of what a profesor should be. And maybe, just maybe if you could repect a conservative view and tell these kids that they need to be responsible for themselves and what you expect out of them as students, just maybe, they would turn out to be expecting to have everything handed to them or given to them. My father worked two jobs just to send us to a private high school. And he still found time to help with my math classes in this school. And yes I worked in high school and studied hard. I learned to sew to make my own closthes- how many kids do that in this generation?? Or wear closthes from the thrift store? Maybe it is time for a change in thinking – a time for conservatism. Not the liberal hogwash that seems to eminate from your state. Hopefully in November, some things will change. So, professor, if students do not get student loans and you have no one to teach, you could just sit there – get a grip on the real world. I wish I could take a year off on sabatical.

    • Really Mary? Their not victims because they didn’t have RABBIT ears growing up as kids?! I think you’ve missed the whole point of this professor’s letter. He’s trying to point out the dumbing down of society through certain tax cuts that caused things like mediocre high school education. You’re talking about loans? How about the fact that the government already regulates almost 100% of student loads, which means less competition and higher interest rates for students; which ultimately results in students taking years and years to pay back the student loans, demanding tax cuts just so they can pay all their bills off. Yes, this generation is indulged in distractions but that still doesn’t mean theirs not something wrong with the system.

    • To Mary,
      You rant like and old coot who is out of place in the world today. It is true that many kids do not get a job at 16 in this day and age.(I did have a job at 16 just FYI) It also true that 30 years ago math and science courses were MUCH easier. The amount of school work placed on most teens today is bordering on insane. Worse than that fact is that they also barely retain any of the school work they’re forced to learn. Our society constantly tells our youth that they are special and unique but then we push them through a cookie cutter education system that has no room for individuality. Rather than promoting free thought and self expansion we reward obedience and absolute submission to authority. So maybe you’re right about the youth of today, perhaps they are lazy and every other horrible thing you think about them. Though your anger is really misplaced. In the end only one group of people is to blame for any shortcomings of our youth. You and every other person from your generation. Together as a whole we are only a product of our mothers and fathers.

  3. Wow! What a breath of fresh air! Someone who actually thinks that we do not deserve to get something for nothing. Schlumpy talks “Socialistic” crap. We are a partial socialistic nation. We do pay taxes for the general good of all. A good education system, great roads and good healthcare come with a price. If you are not prepared to pay for it, do not expect it. These “Tea Party” toothless oldies still think that they should not be paying anything, but run their campers from one rally site to another on our great highways, when they should be driving on dirt roads! That is all they are prepared to pay for! You get what you give out, and for me, although the cost is high, I am pleased that we have a great education system here in New Jersey.

  4. Mr. Graham:we also know the many problems facing,our crippled society,could you illuminate us on a few key points of solution.

  5. Obviously this man’s agenda is socialistic and doesn’t have much of an economic or logical base.

    He overlooks the fact that if people are buying houses and cars for themselves, they are paying sales tax and property taxes that go back into the SYSTEM they supposedly turned their own backs on. So instead of just surrendering money hand over fist, they actually stimulated the economy first – GASP – the horror!!!!

  6. Mike,
    Amen. I believe our society has made a profound shift from “pay it forward” to “what’s in it for me?”. Our de-funding of public education at all levels (I could weep when I contrast my kids’ meager K-12 offerings today with the public education I received in 1970s California)and our retooling of many social policies through the lens of an individualized cost/benefit return rather than the broader social outcomes are dooming us to a future of mediocrity. It’s only after a few generations of under-educated citizens (most notably other people’s children) that we’ll realize just how much our economy and our much-vaunted entrepreneurism depended on a robust and healthy public good.

    As a former student and TA of yours, it was wonderful to see this post. Keep fighting the good fight, and I’ll be there with you in the trenches.

  7. The Professor has it wrong. There has been no reduction in taxes paid by legal California residents that has led to the present condition. If he is referencing Proposition 13, he also needs to consider the inflation adjusted price of real estate in 2010 versus 1978. California collects far more from property tax revenue now than in 1978 after adjusting for inflation, due to the enormous increase in real estate values. The salient point that is missing from the Professor’s analysis is that the reason California has fallen behind in education spending per student is due to the swamping of the public schools with the children of millions of very poorly educated illegal immigrants who do not pay into the system. We did not have this 30 years ago. Spending/Student: significantly alter the denominator by removing several million children of illegal immigrants and California leads the nation in spending per student. And why did this happen? Because to the Democrats, illegals are future votes. To Republicans they are cheap labor. Millions of illegals tax the Infrastructure of the State that the Professor references-operating water systems, roads, parks, and other public facilities-leading to an enormous decline in the quality of life for all legal Californian residents. California’s problems cannot be adequately addressed until the enormous illegal population is removed from the state. A start will be to stop considering anyone born here a US citizen unless born to legal US citizens. This will take away the major incentive to illegal immigration since without a legal child there will be no path to citizenship. Until the illegal population is returned home, the Federal Government needs to pick up the costs to the state of hosting the illegal population. The illegal population is here due to a dereliction of the federal government’s duty to stop this illegal invasion. The Federal Government needs to stop shirking its responsibility to shoulder the costs for its actions.

    • Mr. Hanson, I’m about to do something that I rarely do: hold up Texas as an example. Texas, like California, serves many children of recent immigrants from south of the U.S. border, both documented and not. And Texas, I think we’ll both agree, is not a state where folks are wont to collect or direct public funds liberally. Yet, even Texas manages to spend more per pupil relative to personal income levels in the state than California. (See this link for an illustrative report.

      We have to invest more now if we want our future to be as prosperous as our past. The under-educated youth of today become the under-productive workforce of the future. Frankly, I’d like my Social Security to be there when I’m in my winter years, but if California is nothing but a local-service economy — which is what we’re preparing kids to work in at current spending levels — when I’m older, I doubt I’ll have much of a safety net to count on.

      • My point is that we need to reduce the denominator(Spending/Pupil) and rid California of the children of illegal aliens who have flooded the public schools, then the overall spending per pupil will significantly increase since the revenue source will hardly be affected. In fact not having to spend on all the other social services illegals require will increase revenues across the Board. Barring that, the Federal Govt should pay for the cost of illegals. Californians passed a proposition to address the cost of illegal aliens in the public schools well over a decade ago but a federal judge barred the implementation of that solution. As far as Texas; of course Texans can afford to pay more relative to personal income levels. As the report points out, the cost of living is a fraction of California. And the cost of living in California for families that actually pay taxes includes spending anywhere from $12,000 to $25,000 per child for private education if one chooses to live in the area served by the largest School District, LA Unified or Long Beach or Oakland or San Francisco. These deceiving statistics only include per pupil spending in public schools. California has a higher percentage of students in private schools than Texas or other states. Almost no white students attend public schools above the elementary level in LA Unified, the nation’s second largest school district. Many who have decent elementary schools in LA Unified choose to attend feeder private elementary schools to ensure entry into a private middle or high school. The amounts being spent in Texas do not accurately represent the amounts being spent on the lower income students since a higher percentage of higher income students are enrolled in the public schools in Texas than in California. California spends a higher per pupil average on lower income public school students than its ranking in these often cited deceiving statistics indicate because a higher percentage of students in th public schools are lower income in California. California spends much more on K-12 education on average when Private K-12 is included in the averages. Comparing states with higher percentages of students in Public K-12 with California is like comparing apples and oranges especially in the wake of changes brought about by the Serrano Decisions, which caused changes in funding to be implemented that equalized spending across school districts. By the way, the Serrano Decisions were the original impetus for Proposition 13.

  8. Do you wonder where the money is going?

    Here is what your mean hearted California tax payer is paying for …(these are 2008 figures)

    1. The percentage of residents on welfare in the Golden State is now more than triple that of the rest of the U.S. If it reflected the rest of the country, California would have 800,000 fewer people receiving welfare.

    2. While caseloads in the rest of the U.S. have dropped over 30% in the past five years, California’s has gone up about 6%.

    3. As a result, though it has only about 12% of the total U.S. population, California’s share of the welfare caseload has risen from 22% in 2002 to over 30%.

    4. There are more welfare recipients per family in California, and that number has crept upward in the past couple of years, perhaps indicating that California welfare mothers are bearing more children that those in the rest of the U.S.

    This is merely one where your money is going. Next, we could look at public employee unions and their pensions, or the the $5B fund for embryonic stem cell research that isn’t providing any results (but had the benefit of sticking it to that bad George Bush guy).

    Damn facts. They are such inconvenient things. Now emotions, that’s where the action is at! Yah man!

    • What is your source for this assertion?

      The California Budget Project disagrees. In their publication “The Top Ten Budget Myths… and the Truth” from March of this year, they directly take on this big lie:

      “Welfare spending dropped $349 million between 1996-97 and 2009-10, without adjusting for inflation. On an inflation-adjusted basis, spending [for welfare] is down by $2.5 billion.”

      California has the third lowest spending per person for Medicaid, for example (only Texas and Georgia are lower).

      The proportion of California residents whose income is below the poverty level, and who received assistance as a result, has declined more the 50% since 1995.

      Welfare spending has declined from over 6% of the California budget in 1996-97 to 3.2% in 2009-10.

  9. This is a nice article that gives students something to think about. Current political wisdom quite frankly encourages a selfish “me me me” attitude that has made the sense of citizenship–giving back to the community for the general welfare (to borrow a phrase from the Constitution that has been made unpopular by the political right lately) disappear. Between Glenn Beck and Rand Paul, the idea of thinking about anyone except yourself and the people who believe the exact same thing as you, and look like you, is dangerous liberal socialism. Shame on them. They profess to be Christian but if Jesus needed food stamps they and their followers would kick Christ to the curb. Many baby boomers have been swept into this way of thinking, and have passed it on to their children.

    I also have some comments about the comments. Professors do NOT normally make 200K anywhere–Administrators make 200K (those are profs who have moved into job titles like Dean etc).

    Professors make from 30K to 65K on average, depending on geographic location, rank and discipline. Yes, as low as 30K (full time adjunct).
    I make 47K (tenure track)and I’ve been teaching since 1994. Please do your research before making claims like this (see the Chronicle of Higher Education website, which collects these stats). Also, profs in different departments make different salaries. Business school profs make the highest, humanities the lowest.

    So most professors are not clueless rich snobs–quite the opposite, and often burdened with $100,000 or more in student loans precisely because they did NOT come from wealthy families.

    I am a UCLA and U.C. Irvine alumna (taught in the U.C. and CSU systems 10 years–now out of state, where our state legislature is saying that college doesn’t teach anything valuable unless it’s vocational (business, nursing etc) and therefore programs should be cut in arts, sociology, humanities, and music. Students I ask you–do you want an education or do you just want a job? There’s a difference. Let your state legislators know, no matter what state you are in.

    Keep the basic issue in focus: is the idea of a liberal arts education worth investing in? Are public works like public transportation and health care worth investing in? I say that’s the point of living in a republic rather than in an anarchy–so we can provide for ourselves, our neighbors, and our posterity/future/children. I would ask students and their parents to re-visit the idea of being a good citizen, for the collective good, before voting down infrastructure and education funding because it might mean a tax raise. If you’re really worried about costs make corporate tax loopholes illegal and let the huge tax cuts given the super rich over the last 30 years expire–we have uses for that money.

  10. If $1000 per taxpayer would solve the problems in our K-university problems, I would gladly pay it. We can’t have great schools, well maintained roads, public services – police & fire- without paying for it.

  11. I was fortunate to get into Cal. I hope we can fix the mess that Prop 13 created for education and the state. The call to Gen Y, not a monlith, to believe that ALL of the boomers were and are selfish and not civic minded is unhelpful. Many of us took our diplomas and turned right around and worked to improve society and save CA. I did. So did others. An ideology, brought to life by Reagan, and encouraged by neo cons and right wingers today, is anti-government, anti-public education. These players pander to the most selfish interests. It would be more useful to parse this history, and teach the complexities of this, than to deepen the old generational divide. Doing so does not empower the next gen to avoid the mistakes of SOME of those who came before. And as a boomer, I have a lot of voting years ahead. We all need policy that supports education and a Green economy. In the next election, Brown is the best hope for that.

  12. Peggy Lamb: Americans for a better and more equitable solution, jacking of the best educational system in the world.Solution to the present system.People who were born here and nurtured here first,foreign students should not be able to displace native born students,for whatever reason.Class allocation priority Americans first.And by no means can a foreign student be aloud to buy their way past natives.We the people of America assembled,orchestrated in mass the best education system on the planet, hence all the pressure on American way of life as a result of teaching the whole world,how to do things,increasing the compatition on our youth.How could any critical thinkers not see the ramifications of endless foreign swamping of our schools,and the ones that choose not to go back to the countries they came from.Unfair to the Americans that face hard times now.The foreign graduates who stay here drive down wages because they will work for less.This kind of third world student influx,creates destabilization of middle class livable wages that are necessary to compensate for the twelve to one increase,in real estate over wages in twenty five years. Our way of life is in peril,we must stop the B1 visas for foreign engineers flooding silicon valley.And American industry.The same elitists that brought down Wall street are the one’s who want two tiered society world wide,to remove any intellectual opposition to their agenda.One world order, 1% elite 99% slaves.

  13. RE: Jon Halvorsen, You are well informed, and it would appear, you have seen through the propaganda of the neocon agenda.Unions, wellfair, are not the enemy of the middle class — whats left of it. It is this mans opinion that Wall street Moguls, through greed and avrace found a way to remove regulations,that were enacted by FDR in 1933 to keep the brokers from the kind of behavior, that brought on the melt down of 2008.These elitists are in contempt of the average middle.They are vermin,an should be removed from the gene pool.

  14. Professor O’Hare,

    Brilliant summary of what young people today are faced with. I am a school teacher from British Columbia, Canada. This letter is every bit applicable to our situation in this Province as our public education system is currently being decimated by a big business friendly government. Our school system is taxed beyond belief where class sizes are increasing and the quality of instruction has waned due to enormous cuts made to the system in the last ten years. These politicians seem to be only concerned about their own legacy (Huge unaffordable projects, i.e. Olympics) and how they can line their pockets while the getting is good. I have young children and the future currently looks pretty bleak for them. Like the professor, I urge you young folk to demand change in your system and take back your beautiful state.

    Sincerely, Patrick Bell
    Vancouver, Canada.

  15. Thank you, Professor O’Hare, for posting this. Also, the Desert Pete song rocks! 😉

  16. Great description of the situation today and the timeline leading up to it – and a blame-the-average-person blindness to the historical forces at work.

    Prof. O’Hare doesn’t mention Proposition 13 from 1978 by name, but that is at the center of his story. The fact is, homeowners had a legitimate grievance about property taxes rising far above their ability to pay. Too bad liberals like Jerry Brown let a stalking horse for the oligarchs of wealth write the solution.

    Around 1973 the American economy stopped producing gains for most people. The real hourly wage is no higher now than then; it takes both partners now to earn enough to maintain a family at the standard one working parent could obtain then; and the inequality of income has widened to a historic extreme, with consequences for the tax burden, too.

  17. Dear Professor,

    Thank you very much for your comments. While I am neither a resident of the Great State of California, nor an alumnus of the University of California, your overall statement that our generation (yes, I am a boomer, 55 years old this past week)has abdicated its responsibility to the future is disgustingly true. Although not every one of us has decided that we should put ourselves and our own self interest ahead of our fellow human beings, we have certainly become a society based on greed and mutual disrespect.

    Our abdication of our responsibilities began with the pursuit of goods and possessions, thereby removing one parent from the home to supervise the growth and education of our progeny. [Please do not infer from this statement that “The little woman” should be at home. No, I say A PARENT should be at home.] Instead we sought out the Almighty Dollar in the mistaken belief that more money would allow us to purchase more things and result in more happiness and a better “Quality of life.” What we as a generation have done is shameful and self serving.

    Fortunately for our society and our children’s children, there are many young adults today who are far wiser than we were and see the need for a return to the Golden Rule, who actually paid attention when they were told the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and who will, hopefully, take the reins from our hands and return us to a people who truly believe in service before self.

    If there is anyone who reads this comment and seeks proof of the need for improvement in our public education system, you only need to read the many horribly written comments in this series.

    Thank you, Professor, for your comments. Keep the faith!

    James Gawne, Sr, BA Mgmt
    Phoenix, AZ

  18. I grew up with the Kingston Trio and my parents voted against Prop 13…Of course, Dad is a Cal grad and Mom UCLA. I went to UCSB in the early ’80s and our son is off to Santa Cruz in 3 weeks.

    Your remarks are so spot on…I’ve worked in higher ed for 25 years and currently work for the Arts Council of Kern that just had one school arts program go from $100K to $8K in funding. My job is development officer, but it’s hard to keep up with those kinds of numbers, especially with the cuts to education, health & human services and other areas up the donor food chain.

    I plan to use excerpts from your letter as part of my Kol Nidre appeal for our synagoue. Thank you so much for writing/sharing this. Priming the pump…such a simple concept!

    Have a great year. I know your students must be REALLY good, because our son was not accepted at Cal. We see it as a blessing now, but it is still symptomatic of the problems you describe.

  19. Mr. St.John @ some point we as the Elder States men, must come clean,we are the real participators in this Noble experiment because; the people we hired to Pilot the ship can’t read a compass.Now the decisions that are made are so emportent,in consideration to all the aforementioned consequences of Global deterioration.Gen Y must be made aware of the roll
    they must play.The Politics of old can no longer withstand,the vast challenges facing Gen Y.If you are in any position to influence those who teach.The teachers need to know that colleges are the new emergency rooms, and battlefields of change,away from the strange and unproductive Pilots of the Ship of State,and it must be considered this ship once sailed takes twenty years to turn around.I can only feel sad for anyone who falls off.

  20. Great article. Really great. However, we all know the problems. What are the solutions? I think many of us know what the solutions will entail and what they will look like but a majority don’t want to face up to them. The CA prison system is out of control. WAYYYY tooo much money spent on prisons because we have created so many criminals. The three strikes law is a joke. People imprisoned for life with a third strike of stealing a bicycle should be freed immediately.

    Also, anecdotally, I know of small town cops who, through overtime and extended training (bomb squad, rapid response, marksman), are earning in the $175K per year range. THIS IS AS MUCH AS A GENERAL PRACTITIONER DOCTOR! This is insane. Cops do great work but aren’t even required to have a college degree. No cop should make this kind of money.

    I am not a member of any Tea Party nor even the GOP but there is an incredible amount of inefficiency in California government. Also prop 13 real estate taxation needs to be addressed but at the same time, lower the sales tax. 9% tax is insane.

    BTW, I used to live in California for 9 years but happily don’t live there any longer. My parents did retire via the CA State teachers retirement system which may yet be bankrupt so I have kept up with current events.

  21. At a time when the Tea Party is garnering so much popular support touting the same selfish policies and attitudes that brought California to the sad state it’s in today, this post is particularly timely.

    Proud of my alma mater today. Thanks Prof. O’Hare.

  22. A very good perspective on the need to invest in the future of our children and stop worrying about ourselves. I’m afraid that too many have lost a sense of community and the need to work together for the betterment of everyone, not just for our own advancement. Unfortunately, I think Corporate interests have figured out how to get the hard working middle class to blame government, unions, and “lazy” or “welfare” people for the economic problems we are experiencing today. Let’s not forget that 1% of the population in the US controls over 95% of our wealth. As long as this model continues we will continue to spiral downward.

  23. This is the best argument for a tax revolt I have heard in a while, though of course you didn’t mean it that way.

    Neither you nor the students to whom you are appealing deserve anything from taxpayers except as we choose. It’s our money after all that you are claiming a right to. You and they should be grateful that you get anything from us and if instead of showing gratitude you whine that you have been “swindled” by us then you deserve to learn a lesson in whose money it is and whose choice it is to spend it. I’m as pro-education as anybody you are likely to meet, but people like you don’t deserve a dime of my money. If you convinced my daughter tell me that she had been swindled by limits on government spending the result would be a lesson in gratitude and property rights, not my vote for more taxes.

    Who is being swindled here and who is doing the swindling? Who is giving up a huge amount of money and getting nothing for it? And who is getting a windfall of cash from people against their will? You are the one calling for a swindle, not those of us being forced to pay for your salary.

    Being taxed another $500 a year per person would not make me proud of the government of California, it would make me more determined than ever to teach a lesson to those of you who think you are entitled to be supported at the expense of everyone else and those who would rather just take more of our money from us than to efficiently spend the huge amount you already have token from us.

    As for you accusation that the poor quality of education in this state is due to a “mean-spirited” determination to limit government spending, we are spending more money in California than ever yet somehow the government wastes ever larger quantities and mismanages the school system in ways that would put any private school out of business. What we need is not to throw more cash into the bonfire, it’s to cut back the government severely. This would return the state government to solvency and perhaps get through to people like you that you have no divine right to rule over us or to take your living from us. I’m sorry if you find such an attitude shocking. I find yours equally so and I’m the one paying the bills here not you. You need us, we don’t need you. Perhaps you will figure that out at some point.

  24. As an addendum to my last comment, I do feel very strongly that classes on money management/finances ought to be taught from kindergarten (yes, that early! How about preschool too??) through high school. It seems absolutely ironic that something as daily as the use of money is not a part of the curriculum in public schools. How are we, as a society, going to learn to allocate our money in the most judicious ways possible? Will we continue to fall prey to similar no-money-down scams? Perhaps we wouldn’t have gotten ourselves into such a financial mess had we been more savvy about money. Yes, there are parents who teach their children about money, but not enough do, and there are loads of new money terms that keep popping up. Let’s teach students to be ahead of the financial game so that we can cut down on ignorance and wrong choices, which are costly for everyone as well as for the environment.

  25. Thank you, Professor O’Hare, for having the courage to start a discussion on what have been smoldering issues for quite some time. I have a son at Berkeley, and I do feel that this up-and-coming generation will have one heck of a time sweeping up the mess that my generation (Baby Boomers) has made. Too much wanting what the proverbial Joneses have and spending wildly – the dawn of consumerism with the advent of TV advertisements. We wanted bigger, better, newer, costlier, fancier – well, you get the idea. And, meanwhile, social issues kept knocking at our doors, and we ignored them. Who answers now?

  26. Dear Professor O’Hare,

    Thank you for the informative article. I am one of the fortunate ones that received a wonderful education from Cal in the 50’s and 60’s,earning an AB, MA and PhD. With that education, I have had a good career and been able to bring up my children in a good family life. I agree with everything that you say. To fix California’s educational system and economy, the people need to agree to start paying for them again and we have to build things back up to our golden era.

  27. Do you know what’s funny? When I write my check to the UC schools it goes to the UC Regents. Then when they go to spend my money, they don’t give back to the school I attend, but rather they waste my tuition on the high class prissy nonsense that comes from schools like Berkley. You talk about my parents generation, this, that, and the other thing. As if they didn’t work for every dime they have. While I pay an eggregious amount to go to school at a different UC, only to see a new shiny building being propped up at Berkley. You want to talk about fairness, contracts, and morality. How about applying my tuition to my school. The UC’s are suppose to be an equal opportunity, just like you howl about in your letter about equal opportunity, yet you start it out by saying, “Berkeley, probably still the best public university in the world.” You should be ashamed of your narrow-sighted view of the world in which we live.

  28. Well, I mostly agree, since my son graduated from Berkeley in 2005. My husband is a graduate school professor, and I’m a retired CSU lecturer, so we understand where you’re coming from.

    Can you even imagine that all Berkeley student parents have voted against education? We have always voted for education. I’ve been extremely active in our local schools — in class, and on boards.

    Even though both of our kids have graduated — we still vote to support local and CA schools. Please don’t group us as the parents who don’t vote to help!

  29. Rosemary your a real multy facited woman, I would like to thank you for
    the energy,put forth to monitor this forum,your patients is commendable
    also, your wisdom and breadth of knowledge is impressive,I am not college educated,to my misfortune however;I find the UC Berkly and all who ply the Halls very dedicated to the advancement of the Quest for exellence.

  30. Glen,you think everything is honky dory,have you been living in a vacuum,or perhaps Wall street made you your way out to hold the views you express here.60,000,000,000 in the red,and plenty of money to go around,yea if every man, women ,and child in California were levied 2000 dollars per head we would have 70,000,000,000 10 billion surplus,drop in the bucket,rotting infrastructure, State pension fund,cost of living increase,loss of industry do to poor incite.Mind boggling you could entertain such a shallow approach

  31. Alright lets get to the point,great debate good overview of history,
    The Baron Von Rothschild said in sixteens century give me control,of a nation currency and I care not who makes the Laws.California hired a body builder,to run the words ninth largest economy in the western world,
    dubious at best that decision.And all of us wonder why the money goes down a black hole.Proof that we are devolving,as critical thinkers.Not only has California hired some real,dumbells,no pun intended.but the country in general past twenty years has been listening to to much manipulated a by product,we now deserve the Government we have because,
    the people we selected are all beholding to lobbies.Could have spoken up but most were silent,40% of the population does not vote, and most of that group are Democrats.The power elite Republicans,FOX news,media brain washing,fare and balanced incipid,talking heads neo fascist new world order,paid to say whatever,for pay check,are the enemy of rational change.beware,digest assimilate,think critically your child,s or your grand child,s future may be at risk.Do not be fooled by the continuation of Government propaganda,spreading fear as the rational for not dealing with social issues,New Orleans,Home land security,black hole,social security,lock box,be proactive like this forum,only engage your friends,it is ok to discuss politics,and Religion,forget the stereo type dogmas of the past.Evolve or devolve your choice.A participatory Democracy is a rare Animal,and a noble experiment,this experiment is in its infancy,lets hope we don,t practice infanticide.

    • Indeed you said something most important Carl for us to focus on:
      “A participatory Democracy is a rare Animal, and a noble experiment, this experiment is in its infancy,lets hope we don’t practice infanticide.”

      The paramount fact of life is that Gen Y has a huge burden to bear to save their future quality of life from the unforgivable screw-ups of all other generations since WWII.

      It seems that merely apologizing to Gen Y is not nearly enough, what we must do is support Gen Y decisions because at this point our decisions really amount to criminal negligence or worse because we allowed corruption in Washington to overthrow our Democracy, and we have still done absolutely nothing to prevent Global Warming from destroying our environment as the failed Copenhagen Conference proved.

      As Professor O’Hare said: It’s time for Gen Y to “take charge of this ship and steer it” because the generations before Gen Y have hit the iceberg from Hell and the ship is sinking fast.

  32. Democracy requires constant vigilance, participation and housecleaning. Both republicans and democrats have failed America totally in the 21st century and put us on the road to chaos.

    It is time to organize and energize the “victims of a terrible swindle, denied an inheritance you deserve by contract and by your merits” as an entirely new class of voters who believe in what the Founding Fathers tried to accomplish with the Declaration of Independence (updated with civil rights advancements since then), but at the ballot box this time.

    We must end this latest era of destructive corruption that is destroying the legacy of the Greatest Generation and our Founding Fathers, and once again elect only those with honor, integrity, morals and ethics to end the threats of global warming, terrorism, poverty and greed that overwhelming civilization today.

  33. I am not a victim and have not been swindled. I don’t blame my parents and I hope my son does not blame me. My wish is that he takes personal responsibility for his own success and happiness — and that he is able to contribute to the larger community.

    I think there is plenty of money available for CA to operate and maintain, and that the real problem is that we have a lack of spending prioritization and restraint. Do fewer things and fund them well. I don’t believe for a second that if my household (3) pays an additional $3000/year in CA State taxes that anything will change and that I’ll realize any significant ROI.

    It is also my opinion that the statewide centralization and reallocation of revenue to local communities (via Prop. 13) was the wrong thing to do. The farther my money is away from my control, the more likely it will be spent in a parasitic manner — without regard to the host organism…me!

    • Follow up: I don’t think everything is fine, but I also believe that government isn’t the exclusive solution to everything we ask of it and that a balanced budget is critical to sustainability. I have supported myself (mostly in the not-for-profit sector) since I was 18 and paid for my own CSU education. I’ve never worked in finance and have no trust fund. I have no problem helping people when they are down or supporting those who can’t (especially my extended family and local community), but I’m not inclined to help those who are unwilling to make the choices needed to lead a self-directed life. If you won’t make a personal contribution, don’t expect me to do it on your behalf.

  34. Your posting does not address the cost of education or the public services that have been cut. A fair profit in America is an out dated concept. In education for example, a text book cost considerably more because it is a text book that is required for whatever course, compared to a similar book purchased on the same subject from any retail book store. In the past when our economy was closer the ideals of John Galt your posting would be more relevant.

    The real shame and failure is that we as a society have lost the ideal of taking care of each other and have moved to the ideal of taking advantage of each other because it is legal and falls under the idea of capitalism.

    Just because we can do a thing does mean we should do a thing.


  35. Professor, I wholeheartedly agree with you. Any politican who tells you that government is bad is actually insulting you. After all, we are governed by the people. Does that mean that the people are bad? Anyway, just my two cents. All the best and Go Bears.

    Steve Slatten
    Class of ’98

  36. CA gov’t (state and local) spend (PER CAPITA) in 2000: $6,886
    CA (state and local) spend (PER CAPITA) in 2010: $12,191
    Spending has done that, yet “infrastructure is falling apart” etc. Doesn’t take a poli sci doctorate to figure out the problem here (and it’s not voters wanting term limits).

    If Berkeley really is the best “public university in the world”, it’s surely not because of their Public Policy department…

  37. Thank you for writing this, Professor. This sums up how I’ve been feeling about my parents generation for a while. The exact same thing is happening here in New York, where the state and city are “strapped for cash,” forcing firehouses and schools to close. All state workers were threatened with furloughs in order to close our $9 billion dollar budget gap, a measure that would have only saved a few hundred million dollars. And yet, it was billed as the ONLY solution. We couldn’t tax Wall Street. We couldn’t issue a tax on soda. We couldn’t raise income taxes modestly. Instead we have to cut services.

    As an employee at a New York Community College, I can tell you that services have been cut so far, there is nothing left to cut. I truly believe the only thing that needs to be cut is the “I’ve got mine, to hell with you” attitude of the Hippie-crite generation.

  38. Dude. Berkeley used to be $100/semester. What changed? The administration decided to make it a “great university”, but they decided to use a professor’s definition of what’s great. So they went and hired the most brilliant minds, built them huge labs, paid them high salaries, and told them they didn’t have to teach very often if at all. Of course professors like you think it’s a great place. But aside from the brilliance, all of those enhancements are bad for students who are increasingly left to fend for themselves. It’s like that movie “Home Alone”.

    So at your next faculty meeting, play the look left/look right game. You’re sure to find someone making $200k+ a year. There are 3843 people making more than $200k/year at the Univ. of California.

    Now take a look at the state. Profs like you always like to invoke the poor or middle class. 99% of the state has no chance of making $100k/year. Yet you want to tax them more and more to pay these insane salaries and pensions.

    The answer is simple. There are plenty of great PhDs graduating each year because of the huge over supply. Fire all of the $200k profs and replace them with cheap, hungry new professors. The taxpayers will thank you. The students will be stuck with fewer snooty, entitled profs. Everything will be better– except for life in your little entitled world of “excellence.”

    • Re: Bob
      I don’t know why you think academics at a public school are overpaid. At a school like Berkeley the professors are the top 0.1% of the “oversupply of PhD graduates” you mentioned. Just to be hired as an assistant professor requires being the best of the best in years and years of research that make real progress for society, yet they still risk the chance of not getting tenure if their work happens to be slightly less than absolutely stellar. Only the most successful and senior tenure-track faculty get paid $200K/year, a comfortable but by no means obscene amount relative to the cost of living. It is a joke to suggest that tuition hikes are due to the salaries of faculty members.

      • And it’s also a joke to think that the states’ worries are because of tax breaks. There’s a little something called unfunded liabilities that you completely failed to address. You think that, maybe, guaranteeing in law exponential (some percentage a year) pension/salary increases for public sector employees is unsustainable?

  39. Prof. O’Hare, thank you very much for writing this article. Any comments on Proposition 13 and how it impacted California’s economy?

  40. in Re: David Weir’s comment.

    When people write “tax revenues in the state are considerably higher when adjusted for inflation” and they don’t include the phrase “per capita” I am left wondering whether such elision is intentional. Whether they are intentionally or unintentionally committing fraud.

    In any case it hardly matters. The cost of managing a population is not a linear function of the population, to assume so is inane.

    The “problem” is not that Californians are unwilling to pay, it is various. Some Californians are unwilling to pay. Corporations especially engineer vast loopholes for themselves. Many politicians and public servants are corrupt. Pensions are an earned reward for service, however they are quite subject to being gamed, especially by the disability claims of those whom we hope to trust most, police and firemen. (Realistically, though, the origin of pensions may have been in a cynical bet on the brevity of human life; perhaps they never would have come into existence if modern longevity were understood)

    If Californians want to return to a high quality of living and pay less monetary taxes, they need to tax themselves pre-emptively, in time and attention. They need to get the sunshine onto the government, starting at the top. They need to understand what the weasels are actually doing in the henhouse.

  41. Interesting points. How does California compare with other states in terms of per capita spending on education? My hunch is that the problem is in administration of the money.
    Don’t take a cheap shot at someone who has to commute 2 hours a day. It would not be my first choice. Not everyone can have “the best job in the world.”

  42. Prof O’Hare, I politely disagree. The public cost of these services never were sustainable. Prior generations have failed their descendants by postponing a decision. CA public pensions are quickly replacing the cost for public services. As the pool of pensioners grow, we are facing increased taxes, fees, and charges for less actual services. Not helping the situation is that our leaders are unable to prioritize public spending. Oakland instead chooses to pay for a stadium but eliminates 70 police officers. Cuts now appear arbitrary as they are detrimental. But the silver lining is that we can no longer postpone a decision, whether we’d like to or not. We are facing a firm budgetary constraint that is increasingly becoming more and more difficult to push back. Ultimately fiscal responsibility should restore some sanity to the state. If not the state will default and will effectively be forced to rebuild (this time hopefully on the principles of responsible fiscal management). Ultimately we may return to a state that trusts it’s denizens to take responsibility for their own health, wealth, happiness and education, instead of proscribing it for them.

  43. Hi Professor,

    I am not from your country, however Australia where i am from is facing a similar situation, i dont completly disagree with your point of view however i would like to point out a fact that may have been missed, it applies to not only your country but mine as well, your taxes do not go directly to fix infrustructure, parks universities or goverment departments, Taxes are collected to pay back money that is borrowed from a bank, in your case it is called the federal reserve, lets make it clear that this is not a Goverment Bank but an independant financial entity that controls the monetary polices including the interest rate that a country must pay to borrow money to pay for the facilities that the community utilise, being a private entity they want to achieve maximum profits at the same time provide a service, right now its corporate greed that is killing most western countries in an attempt to consolidate and take market share, it is in our hands as world citizens to develop better standards and operating measure for all our currencies worldwide, more money spent on things that matter and less in the corporate coffers.

  44. For a different view, Prof. O’Hare appears to be using the idealism of college students, especially new ones, to “get out the vote,” even influencing family members, so that they will vote the way he wants. He dramatizes and oversimplifies the problems so that these new students will conclude that his way offers the solution. This is irresponsible behavior by a college professor, and reminds me of celebrities who stump in unrelated areas, like an awards show. Not every candidate has that kind of commercial reach, or via the Berkeley Blog. In fact he’s using public funds to perform the equivalent of political campaigning (but only if the Berkeley Blog is publicly funded through the university). In my mind this is a violation of university policy, and may be a violation of campaign laws. Education has been declining in California, America, and the entire world since long before 1980. There are so many factors it’s ridiculous (including a worldwide recession in the 80’s — does he want to blame that on California politics?). California has a governor’s race coming up, very soon. Prof. O’Hare is obviously stumping against Meg Whitman and for Jerry Brown. This is the message in his letter. I hope any new college student who reads this (or any California voter) won’t let this sway their vote until they review the candidates’ records, positions, platforms, and histories — then make an informed decision. For many starting college, this is the first time in their life that they will vote. I hope they will not just throw their vote away based on what Prof. O’Hare says. And I hope they instead take a little time in among their studies to make a wise decision for them.

  45. Without commenting on the thrust of the article, I strenuously object to one point. In the same breath, you apologize for an education system which doesn’t teach basic skills, and then compare high school dropouts to helpless little fawns who must be coddled by their formally educated peers in order to survive. Where exactly does the advantage of the schooled come from, if you admit it’s not from the school?

    I am intelligent, literate, and skilled, and I call myself a dropout with pride. I walked away from a system that didn’t serve me, worked some, studied some, and years later am now going to college–because I decided it would help me reach my personal goals. The vast majority of my classmates made no such decision; they’re blindly following the path their parents placed them on, with no particular interest or intellectual engagement. The suggestion that these kids are better prepared for life than I am by virtue of having tolerated the lesson mill longer than I did would be offensive, if it bore up to serious scrutiny.

    Decry the current state of the system, or look down on the people who reject it. You undermine yourself by doing both.

  46. Professor O’Hare,

    I respect your point of view however I also must strenuously disagree with you. Anyone interested in your discussion topic should consider Gov. Schwarzenegger’s piece in today’s WSJ as required reading.

    As that bastion of conservatism, Willie Brown puts it, “80 cents of every government dollar in California goes to employee compensation and benefits.” Professor, I share your chagrin about the declines in the quality, affordability and accessibility of California’s higher education system but if it’s truly important to you and others to rectify it then we must be clear about what the true problems are. It’s not, as you say, that Californians are unwilling to pay; tax revenues in the state are considerably higher when adjusted for inflation than they were in the 1970’s (for you Prop 13 bashers, it’s true, look it up). Our problem is that State spending, particularly on public pensions is out of control. Address your arguments there and instruct your students on these facts and then maybe we can make progress towards what we all desire: the highest quality higher education possible.

    As a private sector employee who has lost his pension in a restructuring (like millions of other Californians have) it is particularly galling to be lectured by a State employee who enjoys a pension that is totally insulated from market risk that I have abdicated my responsibility to pay higher taxes to support the unsustainable. I implore you, please rethink your position.

    • Dear David,

      Let me get this straight–you’re actually citing one of the least effective governors in California history? Did you think George W. Bush was a misunderstood economic genius as well? Professor O’Hare’s vision is one that actually worked from the 30’s through the 60’s, when your grandparents actually spent money on public infrastructure. I guess we could scrap the income tax and pay the firefighters every time they come out or pay a toll every time we want to jump on the 880 to go to the strip mall. Personally, I like knowing that the person who inspected the meat I’m eating is paid well enough to care, but that’s just me…

      I’m sorry that you lost your pension, but that should have never happened. I recommend that you work for an organization that WON’T cut your pension. Might I recommend the state of California?

      • Dear Celina, your employer recommendation is fantastic – indeed, let’s get every citizen of California employed by the state of California. Then no one will ever have their pensions at risk. This is obviously the only just solution. It will have the added benefit of everyone equally supporting everyone’s pension and healthcare costs. I’m sure everything would work wonderfully if the state provided all the jobs. Who needs the private sector, anyway? Wouldn’t you agree? You appear to be a beneficiary of such a wonderful employment yourself, it’s only just you wouldn’t want anyone else denied the privilege.

        I’m more than willing to spend money on public infrastructure. However, currently the servicing of pension debt eats a larger proportion of tax income than does higher education. Over the years, it’ll get even worse than that. Less and less of our taxes will be spent on public infrastructure, and more and more on servicing unrealistic public employee pensions. This is unsustainable.

        Schwarzenegger definitely didn’t act when he should’ve and could’ve had, and I condemn him for that. Regardless, what he says in that WSJ column is, unfortunately, all true; did you even go to the trouble of reading the WSJ article?

        • Dear Attila the Honeybee,

          Hate the game, don’t hate the playah. Believe me, you shouldn’t be envious of state workers’ pensions because most state pensions are enough to support only a basic standard of living.

          However, you sound like you must be a CEO of a major corporation. Otherwise, why are you defending the very mentality of people who just took our economy off the cliff? Do you really buy the corporate line that pensions are somehow “socialist?” Do you actually believe that a company can and should do whatever it wants to its employees, just so some idiot shareholder’s stock goes up 25 cents? I don’t.

          By the way, why would I read an article by Arnold? He’s had SEVEN YEARS to accomplish something — anything — and he’s done nothing. I only take advice from people who produce results. If Arnold writes an article on how to make a good action movie, I’ll definitely read that.

          Have a nice day!

      • Facts are facts and as long as you decide that a fact sited in an dialogue is invalid because a Republican stated it, there is nothing to discuss. At the end of the day ma’am you are a Leftist by faith and not fact.

    • Actually, you’ll notice, that prop 13 makes young people pay more than old people. I think that’s a better reason to hate it. Now I have to pay it along with my student debt in the form of income tax and sales tax.

      California has both.

      Older people who had everything to gain from the housing bubble (yet were protected from it by prop 13) need to pay their fair share. This needs to be in the form of their pensions and their taxes.

      I’m all done going through California’s sewer of a public education system and now I have to join the armed forces because I can’t find gainful employment. This is even after getting a “real” degree in a hard science. The choices that the Baby Boomers made are responsible for the situation that I’m facing now.

      Don’t worry though. I’ll see you guys in a few years when I get out.

    • many of the babyboom generation are benefactors and a beneficiaries of Prop 13, taxes on nice condo one mile from parents house is $10,000 and the parents house with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and a yard taxes $3200 approximate property value exceeds $1mil.
      oh please Willie B does not speak for anyone but himself

    • The pension problem and what the professor discusses are not mutually exclusive. His points are hardly negated by the very real and out of control pension problem. Clearly this needs to be corrected- but this is hardly an argument against what he is stating. You are conflating things.

      Also- you are mistaken in your stats. Due to Prop 13 (and other items) taxes are markedly lower. Where on earth did you get this info??? Its not true! It is YOU who needs to look it up!

    • Again, it might help to use real data, real information, and real sources. The State of California has not paid into the pension fund of the University since 1990-1991. During a recession, it decided to just hope that the stock market would increase the value of pension funds enough to cover liabilities.

      The California Budget Project shows that the vast majority of the state budget– over 70%– goes to local needs. They report that state employees– ALL state employees– are supported by about 18% of the budget. UC employees– faculty and staff– account of only one-quarter of state employees.

      Finally “California employs relatively few state workers in comparison to
      other states” and the numbers have stayed relatively steady as a proportion of the growing state population (you need more employees to provide the same services to more people): rising from 8.7 state employees of all kinds per 1000 people in 1988, to 9.3 per 1000 people in 2010.

      • As Professor Joyce notes, it is best to have real data. Are UC students getting the same “education for the buck” that they did when I came here as a young Ph.D. in 1990? In 1990 there were 2000 faculty or so at Berkeley, now there are 1200 and change, and shrinking as of last year. In my department I know of three that will retire next July and there is only one replacement to be hired. The latest numbers from the Chancellor’s office suggests there are 35,000 students at CAL this year. That’s a pretty low ratio of faculty to students compared to many public universities, including the University of New Mexico where I’m an Adjunct faculty.

        Some of these comments on Professor O’Hare’s blog line have stated emphatically how high our salaries are at UCB. Well, we are at least 17% below many other public universities at last count, and many of those universities are in much more inexpensive places to live, plus most of us have had a 8% pay cut — sorry, “furlough” — for the last year. Most of my colleagues are very aware of the issues elucidated here and have taken up the slack as well as can be expected — teaching course overloads as Professor Joyce frequently does, and we don’t get paid any extra for that. Just a little more data for those that think it’s all a picnic.

  47. I agree with you that the cost of education is a debt to future generations being paid forward. But, even looking at eduction from a selfish perspective, education is a highly lucrative investment in skills that our economy, indeed all of our society, badly needs. Without high quality education, we get (as you pointed out) the burden of social costs. But, we also get mediocrity in our economic, political, and social institutions, and the meager dividend mediocrity pays.

  48. Prof. O’Hare, I am a recent grad school graduate and have been thinking about these issues for a while. You are my hero for writing this blog post that is going viral. With a good number of peers around me, we are doing our best to do just what you ask of our generation. Your post is a nice break from brick walls we often get when we talk to our parents’ generation about these issues. I just read your post to one of them, and he listened to you. My “naive, youthful” attempts are now equipped with a weapon that has their stamp of approval. Whatever works. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

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