Swickard: The real learning comes after graduation

Kindergarten graduation a long long long time ago
© 2016 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.   “People in school today can expect a lifetime in which knowledge itself will radically change, not only in its details but in its structures; so that the mark of a truly educated person will no longer be how much or even how variously he knows, but how quickly and how completely he can continually learn.” Richard Kostelanetz, 1986
             Having been born in 1950, this is the 65th year that I have not been asked to speak at graduation. And I have some thoughts since I graduated from kindergarten, eighth grade, high school, a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and a Ph.D. So I have listened to graduation speeches a few times.
            At my high school graduation in 1968 the speaker told us that we were the leaders of tomorrow so we must go out and take charge of the world. The next day I was hunting a job and was not selected to take charge of anything. The big liar.
            It was also mentioned that the older generation watching us graduate in 1968 were ready for us to take over the management of the world. Nope, that would be thirty years later. But it sounded good that night and we felt great as they called our names and we got our diploma.
            I was thinking of graduations past because it is graduation time at New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico. I am an alum of both institutions and have also worked for both. At the graduation ceremony there will be that long wait and then the short walk across the stage.
            Almost twenty years ago I got a Ph.D. That graduation they did the advanced degrees last. So Swickard is late in the alphabet. There was only one person behind me when the people noticed that the ceremony was coming to an end.
            My name was called and the entire audience yelled and clapped. My Aunt Shirley later remarked I had lots of friends. No, I assured her, it was just the ceremony had gone on a couple hours and they were glad it was over. But I digress. What I want to talk to this graduating class about is the never-ending learning they must do.
            As the quotation by Richard Kostelanetz in 1986 points out: these graduates will have a lifetime in which knowledge will radically change, not only in its detail but in its structures; so that the mark of a truly educated person will no longer be how much they know but how completely they can continually learn.
            Often we paint a picture of graduates as wise men or women come down from the ivory towers to take their places in the work-a-day world. Most of us in college spent long hours on subjects which have little relevance to the world, but in doing so we have learned to learn, and that is a great thing.
            The employers will some of these graduates. Quickly though, it is what they can learn to do on the job which will impress people. It can be called, “Just in Time Learning.” Very quickly graduation will cease to be mentioned, the focus will be on what they learned that week.
            The college graduates are celebrated now for an achievement called graduation. The real celebration is for their ability to learn. So I have two messages for the graduates, congratulations on getting this far, and, more importantly, keep on learning!
            But there is more. Some will learn to build wealth; some will always be in debt. Some will find a partner in life and face the world with someone by their side while others will not. The most satisfied and successful people will be well-rounded and will learn how to live life well.
            None of this happens by accident. You must take charge of your life and understand the financial side of life so that in your 50s you can retire if you so desire. With a secure wealth, not flashy money to throw around but debts erased and money socked away you can try your hand at other things rather than work until you drop.
            You can be free of the debt chains if you are disciplined financially.
Email: drswickard@comcast.net - Swickard’s new novel about New Mexico, Hideaway Hills,is now available at Amazon.com



Mary Spence said...

Thank you. I agree wholeheartedly.

Mary Spence said...


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