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Apodaca: There is still hope for college graduates

July 21, 2012|By Patrice Apodaca

With one son just graduated from college and the other a rising high school senior, my boys represent opposite bookends of the college experience.

Education is one of the things — perhaps the only thing — that keeps humanity moving forward, and forestalls the forces of darkness and defeatism.

I've always believed that.

So you'd think that after a whirlwind of commencement ceremonies, graduation parties and college tours over the past several weeks I'd be energized and encouraged about the future. Instead, my head is spinning and I'm a bit dazed from the mash-up of platitudes and hype that are the hallmarks of these occasions.

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There was a certain sameness to all the commencement speeches, a repetitious drone of words and phrases — "find your passion," "chase your dream," "give back to your community" — that had the effect of putting audiences in a somnolent state.

I also observed a stunning similarity among all the college information sessions and tours we attended for my younger son — I lost count after about the sixth campus — that tended to result in the opposite effect to what was intended.

Rather than setting themselves apart, every college promised the same wonderful experience in diversity, dynamism and world-class education. They all invariably trotted out a selection of chirpy students who testified with unwavering enthusiasm about why their school is the coolest place on earth.

Not surprisingly, the admissions representatives were careful to focus on the many attributes of their institutions before lowering the boom as to the price tag for all that awesomeness.

"It would be great if someone said, 'Eh, we're really just average,'" my son quipped at one point.

Punctuating all these events were nervous conversations among parents who inevitably asked each other some variation of the same question: What is your kid going to do with his life?

Good question. As much as I value learning for learning's sake, it's tough not to wonder if my hard-earned money and my kids' academic achievements will buy them the bright futures we'd all bargained for.

The strange zeitgeist of our age was perhaps best captured by the now-famous commencement address delivered this spring by David McCullough Jr., son of the esteemed historian, at a Massachusetts high school.

"None of you is special," McCullough declared repeatedly, while lamenting our society's penchant for valuing "accolades more than genuine achievement."

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