Monday, July 9, 2007

Good Advice

As promised, a link to Wendell Berry's commencement address at Bellarmine University (which changed its name in 2000 from the more fitting Bellarmine College. The change of name is implicitly criticized in Berry's speech, where he lambastes the dominance of "STEM" in our corporate-modeled universities - that is, "science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.")

Berry says something no one else would dare to utter at a graduation address - that the education today's students receive is nearly worthless, if we calculate worth based upon a way of life that is worthy of our admiration and one that is worth passing on to future generations. Universities usually know better than to invite a graduation speaker who will question the worth of the product they are purveying, at enormous cost, to unknowing students and their well-meaning parents.

Yet,he does have some positive things to say about attending a college like Bellarmine:

"Actual education seems now to be far more probable in the smaller schools, and I think you graduates are fortunate to have been students at Bellarmine. A school the size of this one still can function as a community of teachers and students, with responsible community life as its unifying aim. But you must not forget that the purposes and standards of the world into which you are graduating have not been set by institutions such as this one, but rather by the proponents of STEM, who would like you to have a well-paying job as an unconscious expert with Jesus Christ Munitions Incorporated, or Cleanstream Water Polluters, or the Henry Thoreau Noise Factory, or the John Muir Forest Reduction Corporation, or the Promised Land Mountain Removal Service."

And he concludes with a call to think about their future as one of vocation, not mere career - that is, to think about how their work will contribute to the good of the whole of their communities, nations, and the earth, and not their own bottom line:

"You will have to understand that the logic of success is radically different from the logic of vocation. The logic of what our society means by “success” supposedly leads you ever upward to any higher-paying job that can be done sitting down. The logic of vocation holds that there is an indispensable justice, to yourself and to others, in doing well the work that you are “called” or prepared by your talents to do."

But enough of my summary. Read it yourself, or for those who are not as technology averse as Berry, you can even watch and listen.

(Hat tip to Jason Peters)

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