Wall Street idealism

A Yale senior in computer science, Steph Rhee, describes an encounter with a Wall Street tycoon at a cozy Yalie networking event:

When I said that I was studying computer science because I want to be a software engineer and hope to start my own company one day, he said, “Why waste so many years learning how to code? Why not just pay someone else to build your idea?!”

What is hilarious is the imperiously aristocratic style of the grand financier, appalled at the notion of anyone getting their hands dirty in trade, in this case, being so crass as to actually develop the skills to make anything yourself, as opposed to taking advantage of your superior status to float your IDEAS into the room, and expect the peons to praise their brilliance and knuckle down to the real work.

I am reminded of Harlan Ellison’s celebrated reply to fans who would ask him “Where do you get your ideas from?”

“There’s this ‘idea service’ in Schenectady and every week like clockwork they send me a fresh six-pack of ideas for 25 bucks.” Every time I say that at a college lecture there’s always some schmuck who comes up to me and wants the address of the service.


Bake sales of the rich and famous

Via Rachel Larimore is this NY Post article about the struggle by headmasters of exclusive NY private schools to get wealthy parents to perform menial duties in person. Instead, many are sending nannies to

fund-raisers, designing sets for school plays and taking seats at graduations and public performances.

“Now the schools are getting angry — and other parents are getting angry. They don’t want to work the school bake sale with someone’s paid employee,” Uhry said.

Now, it certainly makes sense that the parents should be present in person to see the performances, and designing sets is at least a reasonable parent-child joint activity, though, as Larimore points out, it’s not clear why the schools aren’t hiring professionals to help children with these tasks. This seems to reflect, more than anything the schools’ lack of respect for crafts as educational activity: Presumably they don’t expect the parents to come in the afternoon to grade the math homework.

But bake sales? Why are schools with $40,000 a year tuition holding bake sales? What is the economic rationale for parents to pay a nanny $15 an hour (just guessing…) to sell cookies at 3 for $1 to raise money for the school? Surely the fundraising purpose would be better served by eliminating the middleman.

I appreciate that working together on a fundraising activity may be a bonding experience for parents (or children), but then again, it may not. Presumably for most non-impoverished parents — and that describes, I’m guessing, pretty much all parents at the schools in question here — the hours that the bake sale costs would be more valuable than the pittance that the activity brings in. If the parents wanted to devote that time to the school, there are probably more constructive contributions they could make.

Unless, that is, the bake sales of these schools are more lavish (and lucrative) than I can imagine…