Energy was high Saturday evening at a Twitter-infused Young Republican Town Hall where panelists attacked liberal arts majors, the public education system and government regulation and waste.
The panel, a handful of young men from the fields of politics, law and business, fielded questions from the town hall moderator, KSFO’s conservative talk show host Brian Sussman, the audience and Twitter on the topic of economic and job issues impacting young adults.
Joseph Sanchis, president of the California Young Republican Federation, which hosted the town hall, began by setting what he sees as a dire scene in America today.
“It’s no surprise, the economic situation we are in today, especially for young people,” he said. “It is probably the worst it’s ever been for our generation.”
Sussman asked the panelists to outline how they see the current state of the U.S. economy today.
“It sucks,” said Joe Lonsdale, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and chairman of California for Common Sense, a conservative political advocacy organization. “We’re in the tank, the economy is terrible and I don’t know when it’s going to turn around.”
He went on to say that all of the tech companies he funds in Silicon Valley, however, are hiring engineers and programmers.
So, then, Sussman asked, are we misleading or letting young Americans down by encouraging them to pursue liberal arts majors in college?
“I think people should be getting a vocational education rather than liberal arts degrees,” Lonsdale said.
Sussman liked the idea of pushing for more young people to seek vocational training.
“There are some people who are just not cut out for college,” he said. “But they could be a great mechanic.”
On how to fix America’s schools, panelist Ricky Gill, a 24-year-old 9th District (in San Joaquin County) Congressional candidate and former member of the California Board of Education lambasted the public education system and favored allowing for more charter schools.
“We don’t have the critical mass of charter schools that we need,” he said. “When you look at the California Charter School Act (passed in 1992), the goal was to take the best practices from charter schools and apply them to public schools, and we’re not there in terms of critical mass.”
A young woman from the audience, Yoela, asked the panel what to do when colleges try to encourage or force students into liberal arts degrees and the “social brainwashing” that ensues.
She explained that she started out as a political science major at a university but switched to a computer science major because the students in that area seemed to share her ideals and political beliefs. She tried to encourage her friends to do the same, but claims college counselors discouraged or would not let them do so.
“Would you say there’s brainwashing going at these schools?” Sussman asked the panel?
Panelist Adam Abrahms, a labor attorney at the L.A.-area law firm Proskauer Rose LLP, who said some in the business call him a “union buster”, told Yoel to be strong.
“That’s part of the problem when you have institutionalized a mindset,” he said. “You really need to take it upon yourself to really react, and that’s what we're doing today: we’re making sure that the Republican Party starts talking to these folks, and if you have younger brother or sister in college, talk to them so that they understand what’s going on.”
Another audience member, Dwight, questioned why education was public at all. Why not have a more a la carte system where people pay for what they get at private schools, whether they can afford $5,000, $20,000 or $50,000 a year for their school-age child’s education, he asked?
His suggestion was met with cheers and applause from other audience members.
Panelist Javier Muniz, homeschooled entrepreneur who co-founded Granicus, a company with which many government bodies outsource their public access broadcasts, said parents ought to be able to choose whether they want to contribute to public schools or not.
“There should be the choice to opt out and to have your parents do your schooling or tutors do your schooling that isn’t part of a public institution or publicly accredited institution,” he said.
Back to the topic of the town hall, economic and job issues impacting young adults today, the panel attributed scarce job openings and corporate outsourcing to regulations imposed by a Democrat-led federal government.
“HP outsourced jobs because [Bay Area U.S. Senator] Barbara Boxer has created an economic climate that’s impossible to create jobs in,” said Abrahms.
Raising money for startups ought to be easier, too, Lonsdale said.
Not only does the federal government make it difficult for businesses to make money, it wastes the tax revenue it raises.
“Waste in government is really systemic, there’s a lot of money that is disappearing into the bureaucracy, and we can fix that,” Muniz said.