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December 31, 2005





In America, higher ed has returned to a much more class stratified system. (This is according to those older than me, such as political scientist Ann Norton, and a recent long article in the New York Review of Books). As for signalling, there are always new invidious distinctions that employers can look for. Yes it is tougher on the bright working class.


Quit hiding behind social theory.

It is NO tougher today than it was 20, 50, or 100 years ago. It is fact FAR easier today.

I'm amazed how often today's youths break out in tears when their parents do not hand them what they want.

There are more opportunities today than in the history of humanity. The number of respruces and their assocaitaed costs have come down dramatically.

I second the request STOP WHINNING!!!


OK, I'm going to contradict myself here but what the hell. First off, Chris's point is off-base because kings from 1000 years ago would complain about the current system, "You mean I can't boss everyone around, kill and fuck whomever I want, and act like I'm god?" To mention someone who values and whines about such things as a counterpoint to our current material success is warped. Calling the few, who don't have the barriers to entry they once enjoyed anymore, disadvantaged by the current, more egalitarian system is just perverse.
On the other hand, those who claim in these comments that the kids today are whining- though that would obviously not include Chris, he's saying the kids have it worse- their perspective is outmoded. Just as they would say that the kids today are whining about not having internet access or well-paid enough jobs to afford the latest iPods, I'm sure their forbears complained about them whining about not getting paid enough to buy a nice car or not having the latest hi-fi equipment. The fact is that expectations of what material paraphernalia and pay go with a "normal" life keep getting raised to keep pace with progress, such that someone will always complain. That's a good thing as it drives material progress forward, especially when harnessed to capitalism. Now, I'll admit there are outliers who expect too much, say free health care and Xbox 360s: they deserve to be shouted down. It's just that if you're older, you start shouting down what is relatively accessible and cheap today just because YOU didn't have it before. That's when you know you've crossed the generation gap.
btw, regarding the main point, I agree with the commenters that it is easier today in many ways. I think Chris is mistaking the current downturn from the booming 90's as something worse than how he had it.


"And I’d be anticipating leaving university with £10,000 of debt": you starry-eyed optimist, you. For an 18-year-old, fees alone will be 9000 GBP for a 3-year degree but the decline of the schools means that many degrees have lengthened to 4 years. Then you need food, books, shelter, heating, beer. HIV and whatnot might limit your fun compared with 1982 and tube bombs and muggings put your life at greater risk. But I can reveal that being 18 in 1964 was very heaven. Happy New Year.

Robert Schwartz

On this side of the pond things look different, although maybe they shouldn't.

Clearly, my children are better off financially than I was at their age. This is not, for them, an occupational or class issue, but the result of a multi-generational effort at saving and investing that has left our entire family better off.

As far as schools go, my children have attended the same local schools that I attended. I think they received a somewhat better high school education than I did, largely because of the existence of the Advanced Placement tests, which forced suburban high-schools such as ours to teach a more rigorous curriculum. (see Chris, teaching to a test is not always bad, it depends on the test and the alternatives).

As far as university education goes, it has gotten much more expensive. A years tuition at a first class private university is now in excess of $30,000 (~£17,500), but see above.

More worrisome and less tractable are the intellectual problems of modern academia. When I was an undergrad (late 60s), my teachers were mostly the immensely learned refugees of pre-WWII Europe.

The Magician by Anthony Grafton, 03.03.03, review of Gershom Scholem: A Life in Letters, 1914-1982, Edited and translated by Anthony David Skinner:

"The tales of these intellectual giants include dramatic metamorphoses, as writers somehow managed to change not only their addresses but also their languages, and emerged as great writers a second time, masters of a completely different idiom ... To tell these stories, we must find our way back into the labyrinthine sunken worlds of art and learning, music and literature, that their polymathic protagonists inhabited. Every one of them benefited from an education unimaginably more rigorous than ours, read the forgotten classics of literatures whose existence is hardly known to us, burned with rage at the pamphlets of forgotten radical sects--and then used the shining, drop-forged tools that they had mastered in Gymnasium and liceo and yeshiva to break every rule and to transgress every boundary. Their mental and moral qualities challenge comprehension now--as they often did in their own day. Gullivers in a variety of Lilliputs, the exiles discovered before they even left Europe that they had the right and the duty to embark on unconventional intellectual careers, in the teeth of family opposition, anti-Semitism, inflation, Fascism, Nazism. How did they know? How did they dare? And how will we convey whatever we can learn of their accomplishments intelligibly and attractively to readers to whom the traditions of Jewish and European learning are an unknown country?"


Those teachers are gone now. Their places taken by the odious baby-boomers -- narcissistic, ignorant and self-righteous. They are paid enormous salaries to spout half digested French philosophy in jargon so unintelligible that it would be more accessible if it had been written in French.


How does someone saying they are pleased to have been young when they were, rather than now, constitute whining?


"odious baby-boomers -- narcissistic, ignorant and self-righteous": spot on, Bob, spot on.




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