Wednesday, September 18, 2002

California Schools

Joanne Jacobs has a piece that mentions that 1/3 of California high school students won't graduate. She makes some other good points there, but as a California refugee, let me make a point here. These aren't just a bunch of Hispanic and black kids that aren't graduating. I lived in one of those counties that was overwhelmingly white, where a townhouse could be yours for $200,000 (in one of the less pleasant parts of the county). Yet the local high school had some years where only 70% of the students graduated.

The problem? Lots of kids who were so chemically altered that school was becoming an obstacle, and lots of parents with so much money that the kids didn't need to worry about ever getting a job. One detestable little creep I knew had multimillionaire parents, and spent all of his spare time pretending he was a DJ because he had people listening to this Internet music feed. Why bother finishing high school? He wasn't ever going to have to work.

I am terrified of sounding like one of those nasty socialists, but it is certainly true that too much wealth can sometimes be a great evil to a society. While he didn't grow up in California, another charming example of what too much money can do was David Asimov, the son of the late science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. David Asimov was convicted on child pornography charges. (This was in the March 29, 2001 Santa Rosa Press-Democrat--one of those papers that makes it difficult to link to the article directly. Go to their advanced search page, put "David Asimov" in the search string, and search through 2001.) Newspaper coverage at the time reported that he had a $3000 a month trust fund income, and thus didn't work.

UPDATE: A number of readers took me task for this, pointing out that it wasn't David Asimov's wealth that was the problem, but his father's wealth--and his father didn't do anything wrong. True enough. My point, perhaps to be a little more clear about this, is that there are people that receive great wealth and do something lasting and valuable with it. The science fiction writer Larry Niven made a point of thanking his grandfather, the oilman Edward Doheny, for leaving a pile of money that enabled Niven to complete in two years but most aspiring science fiction writers do in ten, because they are having to work full-time while writing stories. Sad to say, there seems to be a lot more examples like this one above.

For those that are interested, see a newspaper article published in 1999 that played some part in making me unemployable in California. I wasn't advocating socialism--just that people 20 or 30 million dollars probably couldn't usefully spend the interest on their money without corrupting either themselves or their children, and perhaps they should consider helping the poor. Shortly thereafter, the telecom industry, largely run by wealthy liberals and leftists, no longer had jobs for people like me.

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