What is reality?

The economist Thomas Sowell recently gave a brief reflection on the general tenor of commencement speeches in our major universities. Most addresses left much to be desired. Sowell found two general types of graduation speeches.

The first type is “shameless self-advertising by people in government, or in related organizations supported by the tax-payers or donors, saying how much nobler it is to be in ‘public service’ than working in business or other ‘selfish’ activities.”

Or to clarify the point, he added, that in the view of many, “It is morally superior to be in organizations consuming output produced by others than to be in organizations which produce that output.”

The second type of commencement address flatters “the graduates that they are now equipped to go out into the world as ‘leaders’ who can prescribe how other people should live.”

Sowell sums up this approach this way: “Young people, who in most cases have never had the sobering responsibility and experience of being self-supporting adults, are to tell other people—who have had the responsibility and experience for years—how they should live their lives.”

The situation gets worse later on when the said students are promoted within the government so that no one within it has ever really worked for a living.

During his years in office, President Obama, who had no non-governmental experience, issued to business and culture over 20,000 regulatory decrees, few of which had any congressional authorization or helped the economy.

It is interesting to read these incisive comments of Thomas Sowell in the light of the ongoing controversies about the purpose of higher education. Is it to provide a “liberal education” or is it to prepare one for a job, profession, or skill?

Of course, as A.D. Sertillanges said in his famous book, The Intellectual Life, both purposes are valid and indeed necessary. All the political candidates and even the Pope are constantly talking of jobs and their lack, as if providing for jobs was the primary purpose of education or government, for that matter. Continue reading

Source and Image:

MercatorNet — from an article by Rev. James V. Schall SJ, who taught political science at Georgetown University for many years.

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