May 19, 2010

Graduation speech hypocrisy

At a graduation today, the first speaker blathered on and on about how human beings' evolutionary history was fairly egalitarian -- no one could hoard much wealth -- and social like honeybees. He then went on about how little material wealth seems to matter after a certain point for longevity and happiness, whereas income inequality seems to curtail them. He wasn't dispassionately noting a curious correlation but speaking as though inequality causes shorter lifespans and less happiness, as a warning to the graduates.

The speaker, decked out in academic regalia whose bright colors distinguished his rank from those of the other faculty present, then called our attention to the students who were to receive honors for hard work and achievement, who were picked out by a different set of colorful sashes or ribbons or whatever, so why don't we all give these elite students a round of applause.

And he led this specialifying ritual without any apparent regard for draining the happiness and cutting short the lives of those students who received no distinction, who could only look on in envy at those who were smarter or worked harder. Even worse, imagine the deleterious effect this ritual will have on the invisible students' family and friends, whether in attendance or who hear the non-news later on. This second-hand envy will spread the epidemic of short lifespans and little happiness even further.

We wouldn't let cigarette companies get away with this level of polluting public health. While we all perceive the evils of Big Tobacco, the threat of little academics is no less pervasive in the aggregate. For the psychological fitness of future generations, therefore, we must shut up the distinction-drawing blabbermouths at graduation ceremonies. The honor roll has already killed enough children -- don't let your kid become just another statistic.


  1. This is why I skipped my graduation and I will probably skip the next one too.

    - Breeze

  2. That academic apparently doesn't recognize that the word "hoard" isn't synonymous with "earn" or "create".

  3. High school graduation?


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