Monday, May 06, 2013

1170 The Graduate

1170 The Graduate

This posting is adapted from a commencement address delivered to the graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences of Moote Point University in Moote Pointe,  New York, Saturday Saturday, May 4, 2013:

To those of you who have today earned your degree -- or stolen it -- I offer my hearty congratulations and best wishes for your collective and individual futures.

You have managed to remain uncounted in the unemployment report for four years, five for the psychology majors and six for members of the football team.

Now, some of you will go to graduate school, thus postponing loan repayments while others will be looking for work.

I stand here today to tell you that if you learned anything at all during the four, five or six years you spent here, it wasn’t in the classroom.

You learned from your fraternity or sorority how to gain, use and abuse power.  You have learned from your professors how to play hardball politics.  You have learned from your administrators how to be haughty and unforgiving.

With any luck, you’ve learned the basic skills that you should have learned between your first day of kindergarten and your last day of high school, but likely as not didn’t. You may even have learned that “high school” is two words, despite what spellcheck tells you.

What you will learn next, those few of you who find jobs in your major field of study, is that what you’ve been taught is essentially unrelated to what you will do.

A college degree used to be one’s entre into the real world, the world of work.  Unless you are in a highly specialized field, you’re likely to find out sooner rather than later that a college degree is not the union card it used to be.

It will not open doors.  It will not be seen as an accomplishment, it will not brand you as knowledgeable or smart.  It will serve only to separate you from those still in need of remedial reading and math.

It no longer is the badge of the educated elite and certainly not the working elite.

If you were smart -- or lucky -- you worked your way through school.  Not because that might reduce the outrageous bowls of money you had to borrow to get to this day, but because experience counts.

Did you work in retailing or the hospitality trades?  You have a leg up. You know how to deal with cranky hungry customers, meet deadlines and multitask.  You have learned to deal with managers who are envious or just plain stupid.

Maybe you volunteered as an EMT.  Good.  You know what a person is.  Not everyone does.  Did you intern for a public official?  Good.  You’ve been exposed to the world of fakery, corruption and one hand washing the other.

Your time here has not been a waste.  But neither is it an end point. It’s only when you get out there and do something that you begin to learn about what really happens in your field.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them.  ®
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© WJR 2013

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