Every semester, my freshman class at the University of Colorado stages a debate on whether or not you should give money to beggars, and every semester, my students reveal an almost identical set of prejudices and convictions. Those opposed to giving money seldom offer the one rationale that strikes me as reasonable: that it might be more effective to donate to a homeless shelter or social service organization. Usually their arguments are punitive. In every class, there's a student who explains that he's read or heard about a beggar who is actually very wealthy and is just swindling the public. Another will mention that she has offered leftovers to a homeless person and been rebuffed — so they're not really hungry. There's a lot of talk about drug and alcohol abuse, and every now and then some guffawing — always male — about bum-fight videos, sold for entertainment, in which homeless people are persuaded to fight each other for money or alcohol. Many students believe help is always available to the homeless, who stubbornly refuse to take it. And at least one student per semester — usually one who, judging from the incoherent papers he's handing in, is partying his own way through school — self-righteously insists that beggars are lazy people who are... More >>>