The Seat Pleasant 59: A social experiment
December 18, 2011 7:52 PM   Subscribe

A three-part series on the fate of 59 fifth-graders who were given an extraordinary gift: the promise of a college education paid for by two wealthy businessmen. Part 2, Part 3
posted by RedShrek (74 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Let me guess. Randolph and Mortimer Duke.
posted by NedKoppel at 8:07 PM on December 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Nope. Michael Scott
posted by 4ster at 8:10 PM on December 18, 2011 [17 favorites]


I'm deeply uncomfortable with this notion that our approaches to addressing systemic problems will be informed by the actions of a handful of very rich people doing what amounts to a bunch of random crap.
posted by mhoye at 8:15 PM on December 18, 2011 [52 favorites]


a bunch of random crap

On the other hand, why not - it's what they owe their success to.
posted by Miko at 8:21 PM on December 18, 2011 [12 favorites]


I am hitting the sign-in wall, so could someone please summarize?
posted by vidur at 8:22 PM on December 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


This login info worked for me:
Username member@sogetthis.com
Password bugmenot
posted by tmt at 8:23 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Won't let me read past the first page unless I sign in and when I try sign in, it won't let me. I even had them send me a reset password link, went through the reset steps and it still won't let me sign in. I've had that WP account for a decade, not sure what's up with their authentication system.
posted by octothorpe at 8:25 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Could someone summarize anyways? I dislike the writing style, please save character development for the screen play. In fact, I'm only really interested in one question :  Is there any promise that the kids will eventually buy someone else's university if they make enough or something?

I'd agree, mhoye, except individuals often make better decisions than congress. I'd hope more take the Warren Buffet approach of asking someone competent to handle their social investment, rather than just doing random crap. I wonder if congress could do that?
posted by jeffburdges at 8:32 PM on December 18, 2011


I mentor for the offshoot of this organization in Boulder, CO, and got to see its founder, Eugene Lang, speak a few months ago. Some of the classes of kids were sponsored by one or two people, like EL and the men in this article, but others were supported by big pools of donors who give a little bit per month or year over the life of the class.

Watching my now-17-year-old mentee grow, change, and learn over the last five years has been something extraordinary, indeed. I would argue that I get as much or more out of it as she does. Her parents are both manual laborers with an eighth-grade education. The high school she attends has a huge drop-out problem. By contrast, when she graduates in 2012, she will have had intensive tutoring, after-school, and mentorship support in some context since the fourth grade, and she wants to be a lawyer who helps other immigrants.

Is it always successful? Does the promise of money for college undo any of the broader social problems faced by "at-risk" populations? No way, and like any opportunity it is ultimately what she makes of it. But being part of a broader community effort to help one kid have access to a broader opportunity is pretty cool. One of the neatest things I see is that a lot of program grads are still involved and go on to be mentors and donors, so they get to help other kids who were once in their shoes. It's not perfect, but I'll take "good enough" in this case.
posted by mynameisluka at 8:47 PM on December 18, 2011 [15 favorites]


Mind you, growing up I was a middle class white kid, but I was promised a free college education in 5th grade if I kept at my studies. Mind, this was just my parents, but it provided little incentive to this lazy student. (It turns out to have been an empty promise, but that's a different story.)

In any case, I cannot read beyond page two, so I don't really know what promise was made: get good grades and we'll pay, or simply graduate and we'll pay for whatever schooling you want beyond high school, or whatever...but I guess I'm trying to point out that 5th graders are rarely in a position to evaluate and take advantage of an offer like this. If you're not doing well at school and someone offers you a scholarship for even more school if you could only improve...that might as well be pixie dust.

Wish I could read exactly what went into this. If it was promise of paid college + immediate help for those students who struggled with their studies, that's pretty cool, I guess. If it's "we're going to show up for a fifth grade assembly, call us in seven years and let us know how you did in school," that will be a godsend for some and mean nothing to others.
posted by maxwelton at 8:58 PM on December 18, 2011


So, it's a sort of lottery of birth, to make up for the inequities of the, erm, lottery of birth?
posted by pompomtom at 9:07 PM on December 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


This,

mhoye: "I'm deeply uncomfortable with this notion that our approaches to addressing systemic problems will be informed by the actions of a handful of very rich people doing what amounts to a bunch of random crap."

followed by this,

Miko: "On the other hand, why not - it's what they owe their success to."

is despicable.
posted by falameufilho at 9:13 PM on December 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Kalamazoo, MI tried this experiment on all its students (also funded by rich people). It's not considered a great success -- it only slightly increased high school graduation rates. But maybe the mentorship and other features of this program help.
posted by miyabo at 9:14 PM on December 18, 2011


A pretty interesting story, but I had to really work for it. I’m pretty sure that article was written using some sort of "cut-up" technique.
posted by bongo_x at 9:34 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are always going to be rich people, no matter how loudly you make your harrumphing populist noises.
posted by crunchland at 9:38 PM on December 18, 2011


It is true, as mhoye alludes, that we societally exhibit a preference for this sort of philanthropy -- very similar to the layaway payoffs. Certainly the media love the narrative and the way it can frame the rich as great sorts who always find ways to give back to society.

I don't think it's necessarily "random crap", though, in that it certainly is offering a longitudinal experiment in access to education. I'm not clear that these articles are addressing that question very well, though, through their focus on personal stories.
posted by dhartung at 10:53 PM on December 18, 2011


Many countries in Europe have free university education. So for kids in those countries, the "promise of a college education" is not an "extra-ordinary gift." It is just something you grow up with and nothing special in particular. Also, the experimental value is questionable, since the kids in the article probably grew up being told that they are something "special" and have this "extra-ordinary gift" thing. You'd have to factor that out before you draw any conclusions from their success.

The free university education in Europe is, of course, paid for by taxes. Taxes that many of the rich folks in the US don't seem to be paying. So in a way, they just paid society a part of what they owed anyway.
posted by sour cream at 11:30 PM on December 18, 2011 [30 favorites]


falameufilho: “This, (mhoye: "I'm deeply uncomfortable with this notion that our approaches to addressing systemic problems will be informed by the actions of a handful of very rich people doing what amounts to a bunch of random crap.") followed by this, (Miko: "On the other hand, why not - it's what they owe their success to.") is despicable.”

I don't get it. Why?
posted by koeselitz at 11:37 PM on December 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


That was really hard to read, even though the story interested me. I prefer a straightforward narrative arc in newspaper articles, even when they are three-part features.

When it comes to the actual story, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, of course fifth graders are too young to understand the implications of the opportunity to attend college. So, naturally, they're not going to treat the opportunity with as much respect, shall we say, as their benefactors would like. On the other hand, for a lot of them, their parents' attitudes towards the possibility of sending their kids to college must surely have changed. If you know that you can't possibly afford tuition, you're not going to be working towards saving the money for textbooks, food and board, for example. Once you know that tuition will be taken care of, the incentives change.

Also, while individual outcomes vary, I find it hard to be critical of an effort to increase possibilities for people. I can't imagine that the majority of MeFites have not lamented, at some point, for a child whose life could have been different if they had been able to see any possibility of a better future. Surely that's a worthy cause, giving even one child that vision?
posted by bardophile at 12:57 AM on December 19, 2011


I got through the second page before getting a login page. I think the first page gives a summary:
More than 20 years later, the answers are sometimes surprising, sometimes satisfying and sometimes heart-rending. One would become a doctor. One would become a cellist. One would become a UPS driver. One would kill herself. One would kill his father. One would become a politician. One would become a cop. One would become a drug dealer.
They were given opportunity. Some made good use of it, some didn't, and some didn't live long enough to see its fruits, but at least they had choices.
posted by Houstonian at 1:17 AM on December 19, 2011


falalmeufhilo: Do you not agree that the vast, vast majority of the super wealthy are super wealthy because of an accident of birth or circumstance? And do you not agree that there are far, far better ways to help the economically and educationally disadvantaged than by playing these weird fairy godmother games (like, for example, using that money to improve educational infrastructure across the board, or to support pro-education policies, or to fund ongoing educational trusts and scholarships)?

If you don't agree, then maybe explain why, instead of throwing around words like "despicable".
posted by cilantro at 1:46 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dickensian.
posted by Summer at 2:46 AM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'd rather millionaires do the kind of "random crap" that benefits less fortunate people as opposed to having them do the kind of "random crap" that benefits only themselves.

It's not as good as founding a national educational grant or something that would benefit more than just those kids, but it's a damn sight better than getting themselves gold-plated toilet seats or something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:25 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: " getting themselves gold-plated toilet seats or something."

Hello, it's called trickle-down for a reason.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:03 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


My city actually started a permanent version of this a few years ago for all it's high-school students. It's too new to know what kind of impact it's having yet though. The idea is not just to encourage poor kids but to bribe middle-class families into moving back to the city and/or take their kids out of private schools.
posted by octothorpe at 5:18 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd rather millionaires do the kind of "random crap" that benefits less fortunate people as opposed to having them do the kind of "random crap" that benefits only themselves.

I just don't want to accept these options - it's a false choice. I'd most rather that the rich paid the debt they owe to the society that created the conditions that have so benefitted them, in the form of taxes.
posted by Miko at 5:21 AM on December 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


Could someone summarize anyways? I dislike the writing style, please save character development for the screen play. In fact, I'm only really interested in one question : Is there any promise that the kids will eventually buy someone else's university if they make enough or something?

Most of the kids who succeeded went from poor to middle class. Some stayed poor. There's no indication thusfar that any of them will ever be making so much bank they could afford to pay full boat for their own kids, never mind another class of fifth graders.

For those interested in the stats, basically the article says 83% percent of the class graduated high school, which was considerably higher than usual for kids coming out of their school district. Most attended college but struggled while there; 11 completed four year college degrees. But even of those who did not, several went on to get other types of training, and now have stable and successful lives --- one's a cop, one's a UPS driver, etc.
posted by Diablevert at 5:25 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just don't want to accept these options - it's a false choice. I'd most rather that the rich paid the debt they owe to the society that created the conditions that have so benefitted them, in the form of taxes.

Well, yeah, me too, but creating the conditions for that to happen is gonna take a while. This is an "until such time" thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:34 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


83% percent of the class graduated high school, which was considerably higher than usual for kids coming out of their school district

Presumably the kids in the foliowing year were fucked as usual, though.
posted by Grangousier at 5:38 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


This,

mhoye: "I'm deeply uncomfortable with this notion that our approaches to addressing systemic problems will be informed by the actions of a handful of very rich people doing what amounts to a bunch of random crap."

followed by this,

Miko: "On the other hand, why not - it's what they owe their success to."

is despicable.
Yeah, how dare they assert that businessmen find their success through anything other than hard work and dedication and, uh, pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. Man, I'm gonna go throw up now, thanks a lot Miko.
posted by indubitable at 5:46 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


cilantro: "If you don't agree, then maybe explain why, instead of throwing around words like "despicable"."

I thought maybe I wouldn't have to explain, certain things are supposed to be self-evident, but what the hell.

First the fallacy of randomness of success that permeates Metafilter and the anti-wealth discourse is ridiculous. Yes, by being borne white and American, the odds are definitely more on your side than by being borne black and Haitian, but the determinism that comes beyond that puzzles me. Am I to believe that any other person borne on the same day on the Gates or Buffett household would become Bill or Warren? Maktub!

Second, the dismissal of the act as "rich people doing random crap" which I read as they should be doing the non-random thing with their money, which is paying taxes. While I do think that the rich in the US can afford to pay more taxes and that many of the loopholes they take advantage of should be closed, I don't think that the government is automatically wiser than the individual in making these kind of decisions. Yes, we need taxes or else nobody is going to voluntarily fund a host of unpopular things, but on the other hand the individual should have the freedom to grant some of his own money to worthy causes. Are these addressing systemic problems? Probably not, but railing against this is like recommending we close all shelters and soup kitchens because they don't do anything to address the "systemic problem" of homelessness.

I wonder if those who suggest this also think that instead of funding the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett should have just donated all their money to the US government. After all, they need to "pay the debt they owe to the society that created the conditions that have so benefitted them".

I think the people in the article did a beautiful, positive thing, that changed the lives of many. I find kind of funny how people are all concerned with the efficiency rate of this initiative, after the schools had completely failed and had been bleeding money for years, now it's the time to look at it under the microscope - after all, the status quo has just been threatened. But that's another story.

Anyway, I hope there were more people like them. I hope people could look at their actions and be inspired to do something good to their neighbors, instead of suggesting that the sounder option was writing a check to the IRS.
posted by falameufilho at 5:53 AM on December 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Way down in the NE corner of Texas where I was raised, a man named Bo Pilgrim ( of Pilgrim's Pride Chicken) gave every graduate of a number of local high schools a free ride to the local Texas A&M branch for two years. It wasn't just a one time thing - he did it for many years.

If you know anything about Bo, you know he was an interesting man - a good ol' boy who wasn't afraid to push his weight around ( he was known for going on the floor of the Texas senate and passing out $10,000 checks as "political contributions" when legislation had anything to do with his business interests.) Still, I always thought it was a kind gesture.
posted by bradth27 at 6:09 AM on December 19, 2011


Of course those who think that the rich, upon seeing a situation that could be amelliorated with their personal intervention should just take a deep breath and pay more taxes and do nothing, are the same who sneer at those in the bleachers on republican debates cheering child labor or leaving the uninsured to die, and never see that their motivations are basically the same: replacing their humanity and their ultimate concept of right and wrong with the ideological flavor of the month.
posted by falameufilho at 6:11 AM on December 19, 2011


You mention Warren Buffet. You do remember when he asked to be taxed more, right?
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:20 AM on December 19, 2011


Uther Bentrazor: "You do remember when he asked to be taxed more, right?"

You noticed that I asked for same above, right?
posted by falameufilho at 6:25 AM on December 19, 2011


falameufilho: I can't speak for everyone else here, but I absolutely do not think that "the rich, upon seeing a situation that could be amelliorated with their personal intervention should just take a deep breath and pay more taxes and do nothing." I think Bill Gates is awesome. I think his sort of charity (which is nothing at all like what is being discussed here) is amazing and should be a model for people and organisations all over the world.

I think an earlier comment put his or her finger on why this particular type of charity makes me uncomfortable - the word is Dickensian. Swooping down and playing Miss Havisham to a certain kid or group of kids, while their brothers and sisters and the kids in the grade above and below get nothing, it feels like... experimenting. I think it's ugly.

(and as for the first part of your comment, let's switch it around. Would Bill Gates be Bill Gates if he were born to any other family or in any other place in the world? Probably not. And is he, or Warren Buffet, representative of the super-rich? OF COURSE NOT. They are massive exceptions. Massive. The vast, vast majority of the super-rich were born that way. Or they got that way by being utterly ruthless and finding themselves in an easily exploitable situation among easily exploitable people).
posted by cilantro at 6:26 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Eh. Its not randomness so much as path dependence. Gates' and Buffett's parents were quite successful themselves. Buffett's dad was a congressman. That tilted the odds quite a bit more in their favor.

I think the point people are trying to make is that its pretty sad that this sort of mentoring is only being done when a rich person offers up the cash themselves, but if a politician came out and said "I want to raise taxes to do this" that same group of people would mostly jump up and down screaming and yelling.

(not that I don't disagree with your point that MeFI veers ever closer to the "Rich=Thief" point of view)
posted by JPD at 6:28 AM on December 19, 2011


Won't someone think of the rich people?

That kids in a prosperous democratic nation do not automatically get a decent education and access to higher education if they want it is a scandal, frankly.
posted by Summer at 6:31 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


fucking grammar and negation. I agree with your point...
posted by JPD at 6:32 AM on December 19, 2011


I must have missed it in between all the strawmen like this:

I wonder if those who suggest this also think that instead of funding the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett should have just donated all their money to the US government. After all, they need to "pay the debt they owe to the society that created the conditions that have so benefitted them".

It's completely reasonable to simultaneously be happy that these kids got a chance at education AND ALSO think that the rich that have been protected from having to pay a fair share of taxes for so long should do so, considering that it's the machinations of such rich people that lead to the deplorable conditions that these kids and their schools are in.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:33 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Cilantro, you can't at the same time find Bill Gates awesome and thing what these guys did is Dickensian and ugly because they didn't save everybody. I bet the Gates Foundation has to make choices and at the end of the day some people do not get the help they need. You're just looking at them with different optics.

cilantro: "The vast, vast majority of the super-rich were born that way. Or they got that way by being utterly ruthless and finding themselves in an easily exploitable situation among easily exploitable people."

Sorry, but no. This is more of the RICH PEOPLE BAD thing. Define "super-rich" since Buffett and Gates don't fit the bill. Define "vast, vast majority". Cite please.
posted by falameufilho at 6:36 AM on December 19, 2011


it's the machinations of such rich people that lead to the deplorable conditions that these kids and their schools are in.

Kind of a bold statement that.

Income and party affiliation/views on taxation aren't nearly as positively correlated as you want to imply. If nationally its something like 50/50, then for the wealthiest cohort its like 40/60.
posted by JPD at 6:39 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Taxes are necessary, and public services are necessary, and it would be nice if we could get college paid for for every kid whose parents couldn't afford it, but right now, that's not happening. If what certain communities need is more people with college educations, it is in fact a good start to get some people through college in this generation, with the knowledge that they were supported by others and that they should do the same in their time. Public services can't be supplanted by private giving, but in the absence of those services, private giving is *vital*. And college is one of those areas where you if you only have $100k to give, giving a dollar each to a hundred thousand children does not improve the situation; better to give $25k to four of them and try to pick the four with the most promise, and hope that down the line, you'll be able to do eight, and then sixteen, and then, etc. (And then also vote for the sort of people who're going to improve access to college education on a state/national level.)

Given that, unless there's some particular indication that the rich people involved have said, "You shouldn't ever make us pay taxes, we'll just support everything through our charitable efforts!" then I think treating these particular rich people as the problem is a bit premature.
posted by gracedissolved at 6:41 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


JPD: "if a politician came out and said "I want to raise taxes to do this" that same group of people would mostly jump up and down screaming and yelling."

You can't raise taxes to do exactly this - you can only raise taxes to do it for everybody, and the bill for that is some orders of magnitude higher. Also, the people doing the "jump up and down screaming and yelling" are called taxpayers, and they have a say (an indirect one, at least) in these matters since they're the ones paying the bill.

I'm also all for expanding higher education in the US, in a system that's more efficient than the current mix of for profit schools + student loans. But that that isn't happening now and probably won't happen in our lifetimes and is in this vacuum that these philanthropist are acting.
posted by falameufilho at 6:44 AM on December 19, 2011


falamefilho, I don't think you have any grounding to call my views the "ideological flavor of the month," as I've been developing them throughout a lifetime.

the determinism that comes beyond that puzzles me. Am I to believe that any other person borne on the same day on the Gates or Buffett household would become Bill or Warren?

You're right that there are some people of exceptional talent, but change one thing about their condition of life during their childhood years and that exceptionalism will become invisible. I'm equally if not more concerned about the many households in which there already is a Bill or Warren, but because resources are so scarce, they will not get the time, nutrition, cultivation and mentorship, health care, education, and opportunities they'll need to fulfill their potential. How many Bills and Warrens does the present system throw away? As a lifelong educator having seen many very intelligent and talented people unable to overcome the significant obstacles to success that were placed in their path, I know the answer is "far too many."

the individual should have the freedom to grant some of his own money to worthy causes

There's no reason why, in a situation in which the richest did pay their fair share of taxes, they wouldn't also have the freedom to grant their own money to causes they are interested in. In fact, a tighter social safety net and investment across the board in education would free up those dollars for causes which are perhaps considered less vital and so are very underfunded now.

I wonder if those who suggest this also think that instead of funding the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett should have just donated all their money to the US government. After all, they need to "pay the debt they owe to the society that created the conditions that have so benefitted them".

The Gates have a great mission for their foundation and I would indeed rather see philanthropy celebrated than consumerism celebrated by the wealthy. But think about the impact of the manufacture of Microsoft products. Through resource extraction, driving down labor costs, emissions, water waste, and so on, the 'side effects' of Gates' life's work have dramatically impacted the world. The immense wealth flowing to Microsoft has come at the expense of exploited underpaid labor and removal of resources from nations in a lousy position to bargain for fairness. He has created some very useful tools which increase the first world's efficiency, but he has not done that for free or without impact. If he has benefitted from these conditions, then it's just that he help ameliorate them as well.

I don't think that the government is automatically wiser than the individual in making these kind of decisions.


Because of my career in nonprofits, I couldn't agree less. People are actually not very wise about making philanthropic decisions. They're uneven, emotional, heavily biased, and not particularly analytical. I'm all for charity, and in fact I think that these things are part of human nature and to be understood in the world of charitable giving, but let's not kid ourselves that people giving money to charity are making great decisions about the impact of their money. This is why, in fact, a public sector is so necessary - not just to find "unpopular" causes (like what, anyway, education? Health care? Why would these be "unpopular?"), but to fund needs about which we have broad agreement are the basic necessities of a productive life of citizenship.

This is an interesting counterpoint to the K-Mart Layaway thread, in which most of us agreed that it was a nice thing to pay off a stranger's layaway account. That's also random and also kind and helpful, though for smaller dollars. I don't really have an issue with random charity. But I do have an issue with a society that rewards the very few, quite intentionally and out of all reasonable proportion, by starving the many of the most basic things which would result in a stronger society for everyone. I don't begrudge these kids their education money, but I'm sorry anyone had to give it at all. If their education were taken as a given and not the assumed focus of their need, what else could he have done with that money?
posted by Miko at 6:50 AM on December 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


Uther Bentrazor: "considering that it's the machinations of such rich people that lead to the deplorable conditions that these kids and their schools are in."

Please explain what are the crafty schemes and plots conceived and executed by the rich that created the deplorable conditions for these kids and their schools. I'd love to hear your version of The Protocol of the Elders of Zion.
posted by falameufilho at 6:51 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Defining the super-rich and getting a sense of the relative degrees of wealth we're looking at currently is not hard to do. If you haven't seen the L-Curve before, check that out. This too. Something from the Economist.

I really wouldn't have a hard time at all with very wealthy people giving away money in random ways if we didn't have such incredible need in our nation, or such high ideals of citizenship. But we have both, and it's a problem for me that our policy environment favors the accumulation of private wealth over widespread public welfare.
posted by Miko at 7:06 AM on December 19, 2011


the individual should have the freedom to grant some of his own money to worthy causes.

But it's interesting how so very, very few of these individuals actually use that freedom.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:07 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


But it's interesting how so very, very few of these individuals actually use that freedom.

eh. I don't think that's factually correct. Charitable giving rates for the very wealthy are quite high. Even the evil Koch brothers give a ton of money to the arts. So much they renamed the NYS theatre at Lincoln Center after David Koch.
posted by JPD at 7:09 AM on December 19, 2011


Yeah, but rich people should pay more taxes.
Yeah, but rich people should fund all kinds of stuff with their tax dollars.
Yeah, but what about the kids in the grade right after them?
Yeah, but education should be a right.

No amount of "yeah, but"-ing will make me think that a classful of poor kids getting the chance to go to college is a not good thing.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:10 AM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


The Protocol of the Elders of Zion.

Oh so you are just trolling after all. No thanks, pay attention in civics class next time, and when you make it out of high school, check out an economics course. Best of luck!
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:12 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Charitable giving rates for the very wealthy are quite high. Even the evil Koch brothers give a ton of money to the arts. So much they renamed the NYS theatre at Lincoln Center after David Koch.

With all due respect:

1. The NYS theater at Lincoln Center wasn't doing quite so badly in the first place, and

2. I think the Koch brothers were motivated more by "it's gonna be named after me" than "I've always thought the arts deserve more money!"

There's also probably quite a bit more who can also afford to give more that aren't.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:13 AM on December 19, 2011


This is a great thing to do, but I can't help thinking it must have been pretty tough on those with children not in that grade.

And whatever about the story, there is no way I'm going to weep over the plight of the misunderstood and oppressed rich people who have to live in a world where people think that maybe taxing them a tad more might be a good thing and have the brazen cheek to say it. We've tried relying on private charity before and it doesn't work to solve large-scale issues in societies. Just pick up any history of Victorian England and you will quickly find that out
posted by lesbiassparrow at 7:18 AM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


With all due respect you are burying the lede there a bit no? You asserted very few of the super wealthy give money way, I asserted that this was factually incorrect, and made the point that even the most evil right-wingers give money using the Kochs as an example. You choose to attack the point about the Kochs. If you want to refute my assertion and support your own find evidence that shows the wealthy don't give money away at a high rate, don't turn it into an argument about the motivations for the Koch's charitable giving.
posted by JPD at 7:18 AM on December 19, 2011


EmpressCallipygos: "The NYS theater at Lincoln Center wasn't doing quite so badly in the first place, and (...)"

Your point was that the rich were not exercising their freedom to give their own money to worthy causes. When confronted with examples that in fact they are, you shifted the goal posts - now the causes they are support are not the ones you consider the most important and their motives are not noble anyway, so RICH PEOPLE BAD.

It's really hard to have that kind of argument. I'm bowing out of this thread.
posted by falameufilho at 7:20 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Define "super-rich" since Buffett and Gates don't fit the bill. Define "vast, vast majority". Cite please.

As Miko pointed out above, there's plenty of resources on what defines "super-rich" but it's one of those things that constantly has the goalposts moved by the press and politicians. It's also a relative term for a lot of people. As for the "vast, vast majority" of rich people being born that way, there isn't a whole lot of research, but the Economic Mobility Project has this to say:
Most studies find that, in America, about half of the advantages of having a parent with a high income are passed on to the next generation," their report concludes. "This means that one of the biggest predictors of an American child's future economic success -- the identity and characteristics of his or her parents -- is predetermined and outside that child's control. To be sure, the apple can fall far from the tree and often does in individual cases, but relative to other factors, the tree dominates the picture. These findings are more striking when put in comparative context. There is little available evidence that the United States has more relative mobility than other advanced nations. If anything, the data seem to suggest the opposite.
I don't think that's factually correct. Charitable giving rates for the very wealthy are quite high.

That's not really true at all (PDF).
posted by zombieflanders at 7:22 AM on December 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


The assertion that the rich give a lot is a complicated one and not a slam dunk. There are a lot of factors to examine, such as what counts as a charity and how much a role tax sheltering plays, but even so, the rich don't emerge as the golden geese of the charity world.
Yet when we measure monetary giving as a percentage of income in order to ascertain the level of one’s “sacrifice,” we find a surprising result: it is low-income working families that are the most generous group in America, giving away about 4.5 percent of their income on average. This compares to about 2.5 percent among the middle class, and 3 percent among high-income families.
Also, if you think tax policy as currently standing allows the very wealthy to give more away, well, it's not working.

During the last half-century in America, increased wealth has coincided with decreased giving.

Sheryl Sandberg offers some really important analysis in this WSJ piece, The Charity Gap:
The vast majority of givers believe the bulk of their donations help those less fortunate than themselves. In fact, less than one-third of the money individuals gave to nonprofits in 2005 went to help the economically disadvantaged, according to a new study commissioned by Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google...only 8% of donations provide food, shelter or other basic necessities. At most, an additional 23% is directed to the poor -- either providing other direct benefits (such as medical treatment and scholarships) or through initiatives creating opportunity and empowerment (such as literacy and job training programs). It's just not true, in other words, that the major beneficiaries of charity and philanthropy are the disadvantaged.

...The "charity gap" is even wider among the affluent. Wealthy individuals claim, according to a Bank of America Study, that their giving is driven by a "feeling that those who have more should give to those with less." But people who earn more than $1 million per year give only 4% of their donations for basic needs and an additional 19% to other programs geared toward the poor
posted by Miko at 7:34 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Are we really having the 'charity vs state' argument with regards to education in this day and age?

Who cares how much the rich give to charity? It is the state's responsibility to provide equal access to education for everyone. The fact that many nations manage to achieve this goal to a much greater extent proves it is possible and that it should be being fought for and implemented NOW. Projects like these are really just a patronising slap in the face for every child who is denied this opportunity.
posted by Summer at 7:35 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Projects like these are really just a patronising slap in the face for every child who is denied this opportunity.

Most children are denied this opportunity even when projects like this don't exist.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:45 AM on December 19, 2011


You asserted very few of the super wealthy give money way...

No, I asserted very few of the WEALTHY give money away. The SUPER-wealthy may. But the SUPER-wealthy aren't the only people who can afford TO give money away.

So protesting that "but the super-wealthy do it all the time" doesn't really take into the account that there's another, considerably larger pool of people who could also afford to give, and don't -- which was, ultimately, my original point.

I'm well aware of the "but the super-wealthy give a lot all the time" argument. But that's only 1% of the population. It's clearly not enough. Get back to me when the other 9% of the top 10% start chipping in.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:55 AM on December 19, 2011


Parts of the US already do an OK job improving access to higher ed. My state (Minnesota) now pays 100% of in-state tuition costs for any student eligible for a Pell grant (typically, parents earning up to $50k), and also guarantees a work-study job and housing for those students. Rich people get news articles when they do this for a much smaller number of people because we're all fascinated by rich people though.
posted by miyabo at 8:00 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are always going to be rich people, no matter how loudly you make your harrumphing populist noises.
posted by crunchland at 9:38 PM on December 18 [+] [!]


Welcome to strawman theatre! The people don't take umbrage at the mere existence of the wealthy. The disgust is at how they distort the entire economic fabric of the country and use that to their growing advantage, at the cost of the rest of the populace getting screwed. Millionaires throwing out the occasional fiscal pity-fuck doesn't make the system any better, and believing that debt can be relieved by waiting for the lotto luck of having some plutocrat moneyshot dollars across the waiting faces of the poor just makes one a sycophantic fluffer.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:02 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am amazed that so many people in this thread don't understand this.

Donating x amount of money for a scholarship programme, fairly administrated and disseminated according to some set of agreed-upon factors, with all students in a particular school/geographic area/etc. given a fair chance to apply=great!

Donating x amount of money to build a library, or a laboratory, or a whole school, or to buy some school buses=awesome!

Arbitrarily choosing a specific person or group of people to "save" as some kind of social experiment, while that groups' peers are left with nothing= patronising and unfair.

This is a vanity project. It is not charity, it's a game.
posted by cilantro at 8:04 AM on December 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is a vanity project. It is not charity, it's a game.

Given the randomness of where we are born and who we are born to, life is inherently unfair.
posted by anniecat at 8:13 AM on December 19, 2011


And I'd think that the point of charity is to try redress that balance. This doesn't do that.
posted by cilantro at 8:15 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


try TO
posted by cilantro at 8:16 AM on December 19, 2011


First the fallacy of randomness of success that permeates Metafilter and the anti-wealth discourse is ridiculous.

Do you have any evidence for this? As far as I know the general psychological bias actually runs the other way: people tend to attribute success and failure to skill, even when there is no evidence that performance is non-random (c.f. mutual funds).
posted by en forme de poire at 8:37 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even when tax rates were (much) higher the rich still had enough money left over to donate to a cause they deem worthy. Somehow they also found enough money left over to buy palatial estates and anything else they wanted. You're not taking away their right of choice or the means to do so.
posted by narcoleptic at 8:53 AM on December 19, 2011


I think we should raise taxes not only on the rich, but on everyone with a greater than median income.

I want to live in Denmark.
posted by jb at 9:02 AM on December 19, 2011


jeffburdges: "Could someone summarize anyways?"

Here is the best summary I found, about 2/3rds the way through part 3:
Proctor understands that those numbers are vital to any assessment of the program. He knows that the Dreamers’ high school graduation rate of 83 percent far surpassed Prince George’s overall rate in 1995. He also knows that the vast majority did not finish college, a fact that is true of many Dreamers nationally, according to a summary of several studies by the “I Have a Dream” Foundation.

From New York to Portland to Houston, the Dreamers graduated from high school and enrolled in college in far higher numbers than other students. But they often struggled to finish college.

It was often difficult to predict who would make it and who wouldn’t. One kid who looked hopeless might end up graduating from college, as Darone Robinson did. Another kid who got A’s and scored nearly 1,200 on his SAT might drop out, as was the case with Hasani Chapman, one of Darone’s classmates.

What Proctor learned, he says, is that Dreamers’ achievements cannot be defined by a diploma, an attitude that he says Pollin and Cohen eventually embraced. The doctor and the pharmacist are successes, for sure. But so are the UPS driver and the Prince George’s police officer. They may not have college degrees, Proctor says, but they have a sense of purpose and ambition.

Ultimately, Proctor argues, the program’s enduring value lies in the relationships he and his students cultivated over time. His mission, he says, was not to bemoan their failures, but to help his students find alternate paths to success. To say, as he did to Jeffery Norris and others, “Let’s try something different.”

“All we could do was give them the academic help that could make them successful. We could give them options,” he says. “You couldn’t force them.”
Other than that it was character development for the students.
posted by I am the Walrus at 11:52 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Donating x amount of money for a scholarship programme, fairly administrated and disseminated according to some set of agreed-upon factors, with all students in a particular school/geographic area/etc. given a fair chance to apply=great!

Donating x amount of money to build a library, or a laboratory, or a whole school, or to buy some school buses=awesome!

Arbitrarily choosing a specific person or group of people to "save" as some kind of social experiment, while that groups' peers are left with nothing= patronising and unfair.


Seems to me like the conclusion to this logic is that a billionaire should give roughly a quarter to everyone on earth. I don't find that the obviously best solution.
posted by Anything at 12:38 PM on December 19, 2011


Second, the dismissal of the act as "rich people doing random crap" which I read as they should be doing the non-random thing with their money, which is paying taxes.

For me, the problem is not just that the act is random. For me the problem is that the act is framed as a gift to people who should be grateful, rather than as something that is owed to people who have the right to it. That's the difference between this sort of thing and paying taxes, in my mind.
posted by cairdeas at 1:43 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


To be clear, the idea that an adequate education is something that can be provided, or not, on a rich person's whim, rather than something that society ensures through proper taxation, is galling and infuriating to me.
posted by cairdeas at 1:45 PM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Drop a few facts and it's crickets around here.
posted by Miko at 5:40 AM on December 20, 2011


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