Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My Commencement Address

Now that it's graduation season, the press can't help but write articles like this one that discuss the terrible job market and how recent college graduates don't feel prepared to enter the work force. 

To that I say, welcome to reality.

College is not job training; it's academic training, and any university worth its books will operate on that premise. Graduates who think that they are now ready for the working world are living under a false assumption that's been sold to the public for decades. High school guidance counselors, college consultants and many teachers peddle this connection as if it was always true and that the main reason one should go to college is simply to get a job. Institutions of higher education have bought into this line of illogic and are even going to far as to tailor their recruiting messages to highlight the terrific jobs their graduates have found. 

What the colleges don't tell you is whether those jobs are related to what you majored in. That is sometimes an inconvenient measure, akin to the one your high school used to keep property values in your town elevated. The school highlights the wonderful colleges its graduates attend, but does zero follow-up to see who's staying in school, who's graduating, and where they're working. And all it costs is a zillion dollars, most if it in indebtedness that's crushing the wannabe middle class.

So back to the question: Do you want job training? Find an apprenticeship or a school that focuses on technical skills. Don't go to a pricey university and then complain that you don't believe that you are ready for the working world.

A university degree confers upon you the affirmation that you've studied an academic discipline, thought about it, questioned its assumptions and come out the other side a more EDUCATED person. Along the way, perhaps you took that odd course that had nothing to do with your major or making money simply because it was interesting or the professor was exceptional or the guy/gal you liked was also signed up. A university is not a job factory, and people ignore that fact at their peril. 

When I graduated in the early 80s, all full of myself for having gone to the premier Communications school in the country, I was asked the same question on every interview:

How fast can you type?

Mazel tov to all recent graduates. Your work education begins now.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives and on Twitter @rigrundfest

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