Thomas Sowell, in his column at Townhall writes that commencement speeches have recently served either as “shameless self-advertising by people in government” or to “flatter the graduates that they are now equipped to go out into the world as “leaders” who can prescribe how other people should live.”

Sowell regretfully acknowledges also that the pipeline of college graduates to influential public positions can “mean a lifetime of people with ignorance presuming to prescribe to people with personal knowledge”.

He extolls instead the value of work outside academia and of being absent for his own commencement speeches:

“Having to start work at the bottom was a blessing in disguise — and extremely well disguised at the time….It was painfully obvious that adults around me understood much more about their work — and about life. This taught me inescapable lessons and respect for people who had no academic pretensions but a lot of common sense.
It was my personal good fortune never to have been present at a college or university Commencement speech until I was 46 years old. In my earlier years, my college and postgraduate degrees had been mailed to a forwarding address that I left behind when I took leave of the campus at the earliest opportunity.”


Sowell goes on to further detail the problems he sees in academia as manifested in the phenomenon of commencement speeches. His disdain for academic lecturing can be summed up in this quote:

“Presumption is not understanding. It is the antithesis of understanding.”

Read the whole column here.

Photo Credit : Maryland Governor Delievers Commencement Address | Jay Baker | CC BY 2.0