Saturday, May 5, 2007


It's Spring Commencement day at ESU, and I get to participate as our department's representative. It's regarded as a necessary but unwelcome chore by many of my colleagues, and -- considering how many bad Commencement speeches have been inflicted, through the ages, on captive audiences -- with good reason. But I recall the elation of that day, the pride of goals achieved, the satisfaction of accomplishment, and the pleasure of public recognition by one's mentors, friends, and family. As chores go, it's one of the better ones. If I ever get to deliver a Commencement address myself, I'll try to be as succinct as John Dewey in delivering this simple message:

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.

If we've done our job as educators, and if they've done theirs, our students will commence "real" life with humble curiosity about themselves and the world, and with confidence in their abilities to feed it. But they'll never think they know enough. They'll cultivate a noble, Socratic ignorance. They'll reject what Dewey called the "conceit of learning," the shallow and pretentious display of facts for their own sake, the repitition of cant and convention, the resistance to new thoughts and fresh perceptions.

In other words, grads: don't stop learning. Have a great life.

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