Tough love from Berkeley professor

Just read “A letter to my students,” a blog post from UC Berkeley professor of public policy Michael O’Hare. In it, prof. O’Hare apologizes to incoming freshmen for the “swindle” that has wrecked California over the last 30 years and exhorts them to start working to change it.

It’s a blog, so he gets away with a generation-sized straw man — at one point literally putting words in the mouth of millions of voters — because it’s such an impassioned piece. He places blame for our current predicament solely on tax-hating voters (even, mind-frakkingly, safe districts!?), ignoring the generation-long dearth of sanity in the Capitol building. I wouldn’t give Abel Maldonado or Darrell Steinberg an extra $1000 even if it was to get them to fight each other to the death. But everything he says about the current situation, especially as it pertains to education, is undoubtedly true and his piece is definitely worth a read.

A letter to my students, by Michael O’Hare, from The Berkeley Blog

Author: CoolDMZ

"X-ray vision to see in between / Where's my kimono and my time machine?"

6 thoughts on “Tough love from Berkeley professor”

  1. “Every year, fewer and fewer of you . . . 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!”

    Hahaha!! Not true. Every year MORE AND MORE speak a foreign language. And them “more and more” dont have a stake in the basics of govt and business- at least in California. Remittance much, anyone?

    And as for history- I thought everyone had to know about how great Ceasar Chavez and the lot were. And how whitey took over from the natives. You mean that knowledge has no application in the real world?!? And that’s from a Berkeley professor!


  2. What a load of sh*t. California DOMINATES the US top *public* Universities, paid for by our wonderfully high CA tax rates (along with significant contributions from private industry, ahem) Also, why not check the overall rankings. Those private universities are sure doing well.

    I do believe that if we are to be taxed, education is a top item to receive such funds. This is critical to keep the US competitive in the world. However, this guy is way off the deep end.


  3. I’ll go to my death bed saying that Prop 13 is a major detriment to local school districts, which should be allowed to request tax levies for improvements of schools, new equipment and textbooks, additional training for current teachers and the hiring of new ones. But what bothered me about the professor’s letter is the patronizing air in which he addresses his new students. While it’s true that we see a larger number of students who aren’t prepared for college-level work, mostly in writing, the ability to read critically, and in higher-level math skills, I don’t think they’re as badly educated as Professor O’Hare thinks.

    These kids are different—and teachers have talked ourselves blue in the face at CE seminars and written about this subject in countless education journals, which I guess the professor doesn’t read. (Most academics don’t concern themselves much with pedagogy or teaching skills, which might explain why so many college grads leave the campus with only a foggy notion of the US political process and history or basic chemistry and biology.) The current generation of freshmen grew up with cellphone and mobile computer technology. They have an almost instinctive ability to use these gadgets, while I’ll bet the professor doesn’t use half of the functions on his smartphone (if he has one). Electronic media encourages brevity, short sentences and frequent paragraph breaks. There isn’t that much of a need for grammar rules when you’re writing in acronyms or abbreviations. That said, they’re a lot more savvy about algorithms in software and programming languages than they are at speaking a “foreign language”—and here I’ll agree with Turty, a lot of students going to Berkeley now come from ESL households. They often can speak Vietnamese, Russian or Cantonese as fluently as English. To demand they speak a foreign language (by which the professor probably means a European one) is often superfluous.

    It’s really easy to give up on these students because they didn’t read Plato and Aristotle or take AP French in high school. (French is spoken where, by how many people? France, parts of Switzerland, and some nations in Western Africa? Can we call that a global language?) But Prof. O’Hare should just suck it up and do his job. Which is to teach: and not to tell his students what losers they are.


  4. He’s wrong that CA is at the bottom of spending on education. We are actually right in the middle. And we are still near the top on overall tax burden.


  5. He is a Berkeley professor after all so we gotta give him some slack for his self serving whining. As the previous commentors have noted, his data is all screwed up. By any measure Californians absolutely pays their fair share of taxes, but something funny keeps happening to the money after it leaves our paycheck.

    But on the other hand he is doing what a good professor should do. Get the students involved in issues and challenge them to think out of the box. Even if it means that they will end up marching in circles around the quad in protest against (fill in the blank) it’s better than Playstation.

    I would like to see the blog where he takes on the UC Regents with the same zeal that he attacks California taxpayers.

    P.S. “The $500 per person to close the budget gap” is BS unless he expects that my 1 yr old boy, my retired mother, and my unemployed stepbrother will suddenly all begin paying income taxes. Do the math. And he is a prof of public policy? Geez


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