A Graduation Message To The Class Of 2012

Bret Stephens addresses members of the graduating Class of 2012, exposing them to some hard truths they haven't had to face until now. One of most salient points is something that will stand them in good stead, assuming they're willing to listen: “But if you can just manage to tone down your egos, shape up your minds, and think unfashionable thoughts, you just might be able to do something worthy with your lives. And even get a job. Good luck!”

Bret brings up a number of problems with our existing college and university system today, that being they are less about preparing students to face the real world and more about students “getting inflated grades in useless subjects in order to obtain a debased degree.” What's worse is that many of these students put them and/or their families deep into debt, yet they won't be able to find jobs that will pay them anywhere what it is they owe.

Some of those commenting to Bret's piece miss the point, trying to make it seem that he's saying the only worthwhile degrees are in STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine), but that's not what he's saying at all. Instead he's warning students who get degrees in Womyn's Studies, Urban Graffiti, or Transgendered Native American Studies shouldn't expect to be snapped up by corporate America when there are more than enough graduates with degrees in Business Administration, Statistics, Finance, Graphic Arts, Culinary Arts, and an almost endless list of other BA and BS degrees that are far more applicable to the real world.

What's even worse for many of these still unprepared grads is that is that a lot of their contemporaries who didn't go to college are doing far better than they can ever hope to do. This is particularly true of those who went into the trades. They don't have huge student loans to pay off. They started earning their way years earlier than their college-bound friends. And in many ways they've grown up while their friends lived an extended adolescence in college.

On a slightly different thread, one commenter fell into a semantic trap, claiming students are being taught how to think. He went on to claim that they're being brainwashed into being good little progressive puppets. But what he really meant was that they're being taught what to think, which is entirely different.

Being taught how to think, meaning being taught critical thinking skills, is something we need more of in our educational system. If one can think critically, then they can reason from available facts and their own experiences rather than being spoon fed radical and, in the end, socially destructive ideologies masquerading as knowledge and wisdom. Unfortunately we aren't seeing much in the way of critical thinking being taught in our schools any more, and it shows. (This is particularly true in many of our liberal arts colleges.)

Could it be that the lack of critical thinking skills and the abundance of money through loan programs has caused this rampant problem of students studying majors that don't prepare them for life in the real world? I don't know, but it's something worth pondering.