Advantages of a working-class U.

Perhaps with the exception of the UCs and a handful of other “private-like” public universities, I think a lot of people working for state schools have a chip on their shoulder, knowing that ivy gets you more respect in the “real world” and opens doors that otherwise are difficult to open. (Though there are signs this may be changing.)

One of the advantages to teaching in a state school is that you don’t run into as many spoiled rich kids. Even here, during my first year I recall walking behind two Long Islanders who were complaining that they felt “ghetto” because they were carrying last year’s Prada bags.

I’d like to think that professional stand-ins are a problem most of our students can’t afford to give us. This — from a short Newsweek article, is just depressing:

Welcome to the world of professional paper-writing, the dirty secret of the tutoring business. It’s facilitated by avaricious agencies, perpetuated by accountability-free parents and made possible by self-loathing nerds like me. For three-hour workdays, the ability to sleep in and the opportunity to get paid to learn, I tackled subjects like Dostoevsky while spoiled jerks smoked pot, took naps, surfed the Internet and had sex.

It’s depressing not because it happens — I doubt that is all that new. It’s depressing because I suspect that if I asked a random student on our campus, about half of them would aspire to having parents that would do this for them. It’s depressing because I suspect about half the administrators of this university would privately not mind so much either.

A partial solution would be a 100% inheritance tax, but the truth is that this would only partially level the playing field. After all, Dad can still get them a job when they are done.

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7 Comments

  1. Posted 4/12/2005 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    I really like to go to public schools like UB because there is more diversity, especially among students. Sometimes it helped me to break my stereotypes about Americans. However, I wonder we can see higher homogeneity among International students than native students in those universities.

  2. Posted 4/13/2005 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    A 100% inheiritance tax? What right does a government have to take *any* of my money when I die? Is death a taxable offense?

  3. Alex
    Posted 4/13/2005 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    When you die, *you* wouldn’t be taxed at all. After all, you really can’t take it with you. Your children would be taxed on income they did not earn, that came to them simply by accident of birth.

    If there really were such a level playing field, then there might be reason to believe capitalism was actually a fair way of distributing resources. As it stands, it’s a lottery: those born to wealthy families tend to have better educations (or at least degrees from better schools, viz the article to the left), and continue to be wealthy through no merit or work of their own.

    So, no: death is a noble and pure act, and should be celebrated. After all, it frees up your banked resources to be put to more effective use.

  4. Posted 4/13/2005 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    State schools rule! Shocking but true: Salem State College actually values the teaching of undergrads. More than “scholarly production.”

  5. Posted 4/14/2005 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Hmmmm… up here in Canada we only have public universities and that has brought a whole host of other issues with it. So maybe there’s no such thing as a happy medium?

  6. Posted 4/15/2005 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Alex: I guess you are presuming those with money didn’t “earn” it. And yet you want to maintain the principles of capitalism by allowing others to “earn” money via redistribution of wealth. I can’t say I grasp the logic.

    A death tax is nothing more than a removal of choice in how I choose to allocate resources I’ve earned in my life. If I start from nothing and work my entire life to build a life of comfortableness, why should I not be able to pass the fruits of my labor on to my children? After all, while I am living I’m able to pass the fruits of my labor on.

    Taking your conclusion to its logical extreme, people should only be allowed to spend money on themselves. Everyone should have to work for himself, earning his own living, making his own way, because that’s the only “fair,” truly capitalistic way to go about it.

  7. Alex
    Posted 4/15/2005 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    I think you’ve got the idea, yes. I run into kids every day, even on this campus, who have money that they have never had to work for. It has nothing to do with whether they “deserve” to have it.

    Capitalism works, I suspect, when the playing field is relatively even. When kids of rich parents (and rich, in the US more often means white and Asian) get a significant head start, capitalism is no longer assigning wealth according to merit, risk, or work, but according to the accident of birth.

    No, I don’t think it is easy to restrict gifts when someone is alive, but I have no problem using their money when they are dead.

    This is particularly true when it comes to the mega-wealthy. It’s unhealthy for the country to discriminate against kids who don’t have a fair shot at succeeding in the economy because they happened to be born to the wrong parents.

    I can’t stop people from spending money on their children, but I can try to minimize the negative impacts of this. One way is to tax gifts to adult children. And, I would be fine with, say, 90% tax on anything over $500,000.

    The other is to recognize that the system is unfair to children not born to wealth and do whatever possible to minimize this unfair start.

    So, we do a 90% tax on anything over $500K, and we make sure that every school in NY State gets the same $ per student, and that teachers are rotated between schools every few years. That, at least, is a start.

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