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Letter to the Editor – Spartan Daily

March 7, 2010

Hundreds of students and staff showed up to the protest on Thursday demanding more money. For most, the issue seems like a no-brainer: budget cuts suck, so throw some money at the problem. They fail to recognize two essential points: 1) What the government gives you it first has to take away from someone else. 2) There is no free lunch.

There is no “bad guy” cutting the budget for kicks; the budget is being cut because there isn’t enough money to go around. SJSU faces trade-offs because the resources necessary to run a school are scarce. But School leaders feel no shame in wasting money while the quality of education declines. The school will spend $90M to renovate the student union leaving students with furlough days! By cutting more intelligently, the school can “keep the doors open” without begging for more tax dollars.

Students alone will benefit from their education–your degree doesn’t get me a high paying job, nor does mine make you smarter–and yet most of the students at SJSU are aghast at the prospect of paying for their education. Tuition is rising, but we will still only pay a fraction of the cost. Students should be concerned with the prospect of having to pay higher taxes the rest of their life. Taxpayers who aren’t using the CSU system should be angry that they’re paying for something they don’t benefit from.

Education may be a right, but school is not. Noting the difference is important. All life experiences are educational, but the resources necessary to operate a school require the cooperation of others. If I have a right to school, someone else must have a duty to provide necessary resources. To declare my right to taxpayers’ income is to declare my right to the sweat off their backs.

One student was quoted as saying “I’m here because I have to be here…The state depends on students.” The students depend on the state, not the other way around. The world was not chaos and terror before the CSU came on the scene. Even if we didn’t have subsidized schools, people would still go to school in much the same way people eat, buy books, shave, buy cars, pay rent and everything else we do in life.

While several students at the protest were willing to actually talk with me, other students showed their narrow-mindedness by jeering. One student went so far as to physically attack me because he was too short to cover my sign. If the school’s mission is to teach students to think critically and keep their minds open, it has failed. Too many of our students believe in a free lunch and too few are tolerant of dissenting opinions.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Ajay Menon permalink
    March 7, 2010 3:17 pm

    You know Rick, I’ve never really bough the argument that education benefits the person being educated, and them alone. My argument is the same one Easterly details in ‘The Elusive Quest for Growth.’ Other than that I agree with everything you said.

    • March 8, 2010 10:59 am

      I’m not familiar with Easterly’s argument, care to enlighten me?

      I agree with you that education has externalities, but I think the reasons for pursuing an education are mostly personal (i.e. there is no real reason to subsidize education besides charity). My view of the externalities of education is that they are very similar to the externalities from trade. If I’m educated that gives you more opportunity to gain from education, and if I’m running a tech firm, that gives you more opportunity to gain from investing in the tech industry. If that makes sense.

      • Ajay Menon permalink
        March 8, 2010 11:16 am

        Haha well, if I understand your argument correctly, I think you are pretty close to Easterly already.

        To be brief (You should really read it yourself, it’s quite good, and as a writer, Easterly is still out of my league.) the reason that we see PhD.’s driving taxi’s in Africa is that not enough people are educated. As a result, people with PhD’s in physics for example have nowhere to go upon completion of their degree and make next to nothing. In the US on the other hand, when a PhD complete’s their work, they can find employment with people of similar capabilities fairly easily, as a result they are more productive. The term Easterly uses is ‘matching,’ I think.

        To try and make my point clear, the idea that you can benefit from education in a vacuum is probably incorrect (in my opinion anyway), you need people that are as well educated around you to be productive, other wise you are going to have to deal with massive inefficiency if you are able to get anything done at all. This is the reason that people give for public education, and the reasoning behind this line of thinking is pretty solid, more people are educated, the more highly educated people there will be. Unfortunately, with few exceptions public schools don’t seem to be doing that good a job of creating more highly educated people, which is why with the exception of TJ here in VA and Stuyvesant up in NYC, all of the highly ranked schools are private schools. While I probably accept more of a role for government in society than most libertarians/ market liberals than you will meet, I don’t accept the argument for public education. I’m a consequentialist pure and simple, so at the end of the day I’m going to favor what work, and public education doesn’t.

        That was kind of a miniblog wasn’t it? Sorry about that. Did my answer make sense?

      • March 8, 2010 12:15 pm

        update: this is a response to Ajay’s most recent comment. Apparently WP does not want to nest too many comments at once.

        I understand what you’re saying, and I agree. I didn’t incorporate it into my letter for two reasons: space constraints, and to avoid confusing readers of the school paper. To properly address the protests and the issue of educational externalities would require a much longer letter than most people would voluntarily read.

  2. nevocus permalink
    March 7, 2010 4:40 pm

    Congratulations, Rick. I really enjoyed the way you wrote it.

    Fernando from Mexico

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