Why I’ll always support open and cheap public education

I was talking with my dad last night and I learned a little bit more about my past. He told me about his childhood. He grew up in Brooklyn and lived in the projects there (subsidized housing for families who don’t make much money). His dad ran a lathe machine at Westinghouse. Worked nights. Dropped out of school at the eighth grade. Hated his job, but knew he was lucky to even have a job. My dad was the first one to go to college in our family. Why did he go? Because there was a community college that accepted him and was free. He went on to get a PHD from Rutgers, and get a job at Ampex in Redwood City (which is why he moved us out from New Jersey to Silicon Valley). Everytime I drive past the Ampex sign along 101 (which I’ll do in a few minutes when I drive Patrick to his house in Petaluma) I thank whoever hired him at Ampex. It’s why I’m here today. Oh, that and that free community college in New Jersey that took in my dad.

I was thinking about that when I read Dave Winer’s writings today about open meetings. I love the user group attitude that open meetings have. I love the openess. It lets everyone participate no matter what their skin color, no matter what their gender, no matter what their social status is (at Friday’s party I saw geeks who are struggling to get some server money together hanging out with geeks who had millions to their names). Say what you want about all the hype, all the hubris, but hype and hubris don’t stick around until 4 a.m. just for the sheer joy of writing and sharing and coming up with something new.

Does this stuff matter to society? Does it matter to families? Does it matter to you? Yes. Sharing knowledge with others helps us all out. It bootstraps people out of poverty and into more interesting lives. My only disappointment is that we can’t get more people who are unlike us to attend.

Another meeting is on Monday night. Nothing important will happen there. Just the future. Who will build it?

Thanks to those people who believed that public education was important for society. Thanks to those people who thought that poor people needed a hand up. Now it’s time for me to give back.