Around this time of year, students graduating college are told how smart they are, how much they’ve accomplished, all the great stuff they’re about to do — “Oh, the places you’ll go!” Bret Stephens has other advice, and it’s probably the best advice any graduating student — especially the Class of 2012 — could get.
Allow me to be the first one not to congratulate you. Through exertions that—let’s be honest—were probably less than heroic, most of you have spent the last few years getting inflated grades in useless subjects in order to obtain a debased degree. Now you’re entering a lousy economy, courtesy of the very president whom you, as freshmen, voted for with such enthusiasm. Please spare us the self-pity about how tough it is to look for a job while living with your parents. They’re the ones who spent a fortune on your education only to get you back— return-to-sender, forwarding address unknown…
Many of you have been reared on the cliché that the purpose of education isn’t to stuff your head with facts but to teach you how to think. Wrong. I routinely interview college students, mostly from top schools, and I notice that their brains are like old maps, with lots of blank spaces for the uncharted terrain. It’s not that they lack for motivation or IQ. It’s that they can’t connect the dots when they don’t know where the dots are in the first place.
Read the whole thing. It’s funny, and smart. Via Meadia has never agreed with every statement in any speech we have heard, and this one is no exception — but every graduating senior about to head into the labor market needs to reflect on what Bret says here.