Learn to provide for yourself
I have a confession. I can't stand baby boomers. More specifically, I can't stand self-righteous baby boomers who spend all their waking hours complaining about kids these days. I'm sure you've heard it before: "You're lazy! You don't care about anything other than yourself," etc. When it comes to baby-boomer bashing, I take a backseat to no one.
Sometimes, though, I have to admit, they have valid points.
Take last week's "Walk into Action" rally on April 13 where University students protested budget cuts and rising tuition.
Say what you will about the baby boomers, but at least they protested issues that were larger than them. They sat-in to fight the Vietnam War, marched for civil rights, championed feminism and lobbied for environmental protections.
Students last week weathered the elements to participate in the "Walk into Action" rally, because they sincerely believe that other people should pay for their schooling. The main thrust of their protest was that tuition is rising, the state has failed to provide adequate funding, and the solution is for other people — taxpayers — to pay more.
Sure, there still are students who fight for transcendent issues. For example, I saw people on College Avenue protesting the war in Afghanistan — five people. Tent State is gearing up for another round of festivities. Does anyone remember what they are protesting? Budget cuts? War in Iraq? Who cares? The important thing is they get to sleep in tents.
Don't get me wrong — there is nothing wrong with being selfish. When you go to a restaurant with friends, you probably are secretly hoping — or in my case, not so secretly — that one of your friends will feel generous enough to cover your meal, so it is only natural to hope that someone else will cover the full costs of your education.
The problem is, much like the aforementioned restaurant, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone has to pay the professors and someone has to cover the bill for my sandwich. You cannot defer payment forever, otherwise professors would stop teaching and those guys at the Grease Trucks would stop concocting their intricate recipes for fat sandwiches.
The more serious problem with the "Walk into Action" protest is that they are actually contributing to higher tuition costs. It doesn't take an economics degree to understand that subsidizing students — through Pell Grants, easy credit or any other mechanism — causes tuition increases. It's simple supply and demand. Subsidies to students increase the demand for an education, and an increase in demand raises prices, or in this case, tuition.
None of this matters, though. The organizers of "Walk into Action" want others to take care of their problems. The perfect illustration of this comes from The Daily Targum's account of the protest in an April 14 article, "‘Walk into Action' draws in hundreds." University President Richard L. McCormick suggested that students travel to Trenton to lobby the state government for more money. In response to this, one student "suggested that the University provide buses to bring students [to Trenton]." Instead of taking the train or carpooling, this student's first response was for somebody else to pay for buses. That somebody else, by the way, is you and me. There is, after all, no such thing as a free bus.
At the protest, students chanted, "Education is a right, so fight, fight, fight." I love a good rhyme as much as the next guy, but education is not a right. If it were, then everyone would be entitled to it. A student who goofed off and failed out of high school does not have the right to go to college, and if he did, then it would be an affront to every high school student who did his or her homework and studied for his or her tests. Calling education a right is also an affront to our real rights, like our right to assemble and chant asinine slogans.
I get it. It's hard out there for young people fresh out of college. The job market stinks, and it's no fun owing tens of thousands in debt. But college kids — aside from those snotty Ivies — have always been relatively poor. Do you think you have it bad? Try to imagine what it was like to attend the University during the Great Depression when one in four people were out of a job. During the Depression, the students were interested in learning how to be productive members of society, so they could provide for themselves. Today, students are interested in learning to be political activists, so they can lobby for more money for their special causes. Sometimes, their causes are worthy of the money bestowed on them, but most of the time, the causes are patently narcissistic and worthless. Guess which "Walk into Action" is.
Noah Glyn is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in economics and history. His column, "Irreconcilable Differences," runs on alternate Thursdays.