In Which We Remember We’re Supposed to Learn Things
In case you hadn’t gotten the sense from my ten point offerings lately, I’m a huge West Wing fan. I quote the show a lot, I love the characters and the arc and the lessons. I reference it in all political arguments, whether I tell you I’m doing it or not. Some people don’t see it as a valid source.
Bah! I say to them. The West Wing is one of my formative experiences growing up. And so I was much dismayed to learn that Aaron Sorkin, the show’s creator and writer, spoke at Syracuse’s commencement ceremony this year. My own commencement speaker in 2011 was rather lackluster. I know, I know – Syracuse is Sorkin’s alma mater, blah blah. Whatever. Doesn’t he hear my appreciation for him calling across the eons?
Okay, so that was creepy. But the point is, Sorkin said something very interesting to the class of 2013 of Syracuse University. He said:
“And make no mistake about it, you are dumb. You’re a group of incredibly well-educated dumb people. I was there. We all were there. You’re barely functional. There are some screw-ups headed your way. I wish I could tell you that there was a trick to avoiding the screw-ups, but the screw-ups, they’re a-coming for ya. It’s a combination of life being unpredictable, and you being super dumb.”
This, coming on the heels of an economic crisis that has left many of us wondering if college is worth it, is sort of disheartening. The worth of college has become a numbers game – how many graduates are still unemployed a year after commencement? How much money are graduates making? How many of them feel they are using what they learned at university in their jobs post-graduation?
This is a load of crap. Education is important. My current job is a glorified assistant, which I could have gotten and succeeded in without my diploma from a well-reputed university. But I would not trade in those years at school for all the tea in China. Getting to spend four years discussing ideas, thinking critically, reading and writing and arguing was an invaluable experience. At no other point in your life is anyone going to care that much about what you think purely for the sake of thinking it.
College isn’t for everyone. I’m not saying it should be – technical schools, community colleges, apprenticeships, jobs, the military – these are all equally valuable options. What I am saying, however, is that learning is important. That settling, that being stagnant is antithetical to being human. We can always be better. Sorkin’s point is that we’re going to mess up. We’re going to fall over and over and over again. But that only means we’re can keep learning, keep growing. Elite is not a four letter word. Smart is sexy. And anyone who tells you otherwise is lying or jealous.
We can always be better. Let’s remember to try.