Dear friends – and students – and new Bronco alumni!
It’s graduation season, and I love the privilege of watching my students cross the stage in caps and gowns. (And I get hugs too). I’m so proud of these wonderful young people, and I truly believe they’re going to enter the world and accomplish great things.
The commencement ceremony marks a rather strange moment in time – it’s an ending, and a beginning. It’s a time of accomplishment, but also a launching pad into the unknown.
During the ceremony, students are told (and this language will also appear on their diplomas) that they are granted their degrees “with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities pertaining thereto.” The rights and privileges are pretty easy to understand, but the responsibilities? A degree comes with responsibilities?
Yes, it does.
A degree from our institution marks you as a public intellectual. It’s a public statement that you have received instruction in a variety of subjects, and have attained a certain level of proficiency. One of my professors in grad school explained it this way: It means you now have a responsibility to take part in your community, to use your knowledge for the betterment of your world, to speak out. Having a degree gives you credibility, with institutional backing. You abdicate your responsibility to the rest of us if you take your new knowledge, and go hide in a cave.
I hope our new alumni will embrace this responsibility, along with the rights and privileges that come with those brand-new degrees. Congratulations! Now go and take part in your world.
I spent most of this week working on my book manuscript.
Why? So many reasons. Because I can write, because this stuff matters, because I have a contract, because the publisher keeps sending me reminders. Mostly because I want my students to be able to connect theory with a well-lived life.
It’s a huge privilege to have something to say, and an outlet through which to say it. That fact is not lost on me.
We WILL get this published for fall. Yes.
It’s become a common sight at concerts, events, celebrity appearances – even kids’ recitals. Expect to see it a lot at this summer. I’m talking about this:
I’m “old school” – a member of the last generation who will remember life before the internet – but this particular social phenomenon dismays me.
I remember attending “Skate America” prior to the Sochi Olympics, and “Stars on Ice” later that year. Many audience members chose to watch the performances through the viewfinders on their phones, rather than directly with their eyes. I understand the desire to capture the moment so you can relive it later, but I’m sure many of these folks also wanted to record the performances to show to friends – “I was there. I was in the room.”
What troubles me is how this removes us from the moment when it’s happening. Not only are we one step removed from the experience when watching it through a viewfinder, but we’re objectifying the performance and the person, rather than enjoying a feeling of connection. There’s an element of humanity we’re missing here.
(I should note that I have similar feelings about autographs and “me with celebrity” selfies. I’d much rather have a handshake, a hug, a conversation).
It’s fun to be “in the room” and to be able to relive that moment and share it with others. But for me, it’s much more gratifying to be “in the moment,” and to feel it all – a connection with others, an appreciation, a sense of wonder.
I encourage you to be “in the moment” during your upcoming holidays. Connect with people. Life authentically.
I am so thoroughly sick of binary thinking – the kind of either/or, black/white logic that says: We either do x, or y will happen. It goes something like this:
We either arm teachers, or kids will continue to get shot in school.
We either institute punitive border policies, or “undesirables” will come flooding in.
We either do things our way, or all hell will break loose.
I try – on a daily basis – to develop my students’ critical thinking skills. I teach them to question the status quo. If, after careful thought, they still think the status quo is right, I’m fine with that. I just want them to question things. I want them to be skeptical about either/or thinking. I want them to look at the things they take for granted, and poke ’em with a stick.
My hope for us all: Don’t blindly accept what you’re told, even if it comes from “your” side. Think deeper. Question. Decide for yourself, not because someone says so. Test everything against your own education, experience, and the spirit within you.
I have faith in you, in myself, in us.
I love teaching Intercultural Communication. One of the principles I teach my students is that culture is all around us, and is not limited to race and ethnicity. We all belong to multiple cultures, each with its own ideas and behaviors. I like to show my students “popular press” books that give insights into a wide range of cultures, such as these:
Modern Romance – A humorous look at dating in the internet age.
Educated – a home-schooled survivalist decides to go to university.
When Generations Collide – workplace dynamics when the age range is 20-70 and beyond.
Reading the Romance – who reads romance novels, and why? (You may be surprised).
Intercultural Communication isn’t some esoteric textbook topic – it’s part of our everyday lives, if we only know where to look. If you communicate with others across religious or political differences, or if you’ve ever had to explain a “strange” hobby to someone who’s never heard of it – those are forms of intercultural communication.
“Game of Thrones” fans trying to explain the story to non-fans will know what I mean. The GOT fandom is a strong and fascinating culture!
Keep reading, keep learning,
Winnie and the Professor
I hope you will all watch Susan Cain’s TED talk about introversion, and how important introverts are to the human community. It’s ok to not be outspoken!