For someone who’s as old as I am, I have attended remarkably few graduation ceremonies, and so have suffered through very few commencement addresses. Assuming what I’ve heard about them is true, if they could be packaged, they would put Ambien out of business. This one is an exception — a work of art, suitable for framing:
What do we mean when we say that this is a “commencement”? Is it truly a new beginning, or merely a paradoxical designation for the end of your education? The answer will depend primarily on how much debt you have accumulated. Seeing as this fine institution gouges the working and middle classes to the same extent as other, even better, fine institutions, I will wager that your best years are behind you.
So where does that leave your mortarboarded selves, other than staring blankly into the void like a gaggle of stupefied monks trapped in a Stanley Kubrick movie? As a great superintendent of higher education once declaimed, “Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life.” I disagree. If such were the case, where would that leave CNN? Or Buzzfeed? Or at least five Cabinet appointees?
What is Truth? When that question was famously asked, Socrates was already dead, and so we knew that Truth was something you only thought you knew, like which Kardashian to follow on Instagram, but was in reality too elusive to grasp, otherwise you’d be like Socrates, which is to say dead. And so continuing education was born.
Allow me to tell a story so inappropriate it can only end in a subpoena. Oh forget it. What can I say that won’t result in a riot or another iteration of that crazy Hitler video where he’s suddenly screaming about piñatas and cultural appropriation? What has happened to our great universities, and even our crappy ones? Where did the spirit of debate, free inquiry, and open exchange of ideas flee to? Flanders? And what ever happened to Flanders? How do you lose a whole damn country? Moreover, could Lincoln and Douglas have held their historic debates in this censorious climate, or would they, too, have been deplatformed, forced to do that stupid Joe Rogan podcast and drop F-bombs every five minutes?
When I think of the great minds who have contributed to the best in American education, I never think of John Dewey, who mumbled, “We always live at the time we live and not at some other time, and only by extracting at each present time the full meaning of each present experience are we prepared—” OH SHUT UP. What a pompous ass. May his decimal system be tossed onto the trash heap of history alongside cyclamates, late-night comedy, and penmanship. [continue reading here]