The following letter (updated, expanded and edited for this reissue) was posted in late 2010 (many comments there, worth a read). In the last several weeks, I’ve been asked by a variety of friends and colleagues to post it again. I wish I could report that it’s out of date, but the trends it discusses have worsened if anything, as more states accelerate the destruction of their greatest assets–Jefferson wanted most to be remembered for creating his state university–and half of our two-party machinery degrades into fact-free, willfully ignorant armies competing to sow hate, fear, and spite.
You’ve been admitted to colleges, and chosen Berkeley, probably still the best public university in the world. Next fall, you’ll meet your classmates, the best group of partners you can find anywhere. The percentages for grades on exams, papers, etc. in my courses always add up to 110% because that’s what I’ve learned to expect from you, over twenty years in the best job in the world.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that you have been the victims of a terrible swindle, denied an inheritance you deserve by contract and by your merits. And you aren’t the only ones; victims of this ripoff include the students who were on your left and on your right in high school but didn’t get into Cal, a whole generation stiffed by mine. This letter is an apology, and more usefully, perhaps a signal to start demanding what’s been taken from you so you can pass it on with interest. Continue Reading…