Glossing your brood in genteel shine (27 May 2009)
"But you -- the UBC Arts graduates of 2009 -- are well-equipped for challenges. You've learned to think critically, communicate well, and cooperate with others to achieve common goals. You've acquired a respect for the insights and accomplishment of past generations, so that you stand on the shoulders of giants -- rather than starting at ground level again." (Michael Byers, “Dear Grads, Help Save Us!,” The Tyee, May 27 2009)
Last time I checked, this whole standing on the shoulders of giants thing was under about 50 years of non-stop challenge by people in the Arts, who pretty loudly assessed these giants as amounting to, well, giants -- that is, monsters. Faculty of Arts a bit on the conservative side at UBC? Or is it just tactically smart to feed students' parents what they want to hear (and can be expected to handle), that is, that will gloss their brood in genteel shine?
The speech you delivered was no doubt truthful to your experience and sense of things, but seems dumb and inadequate. The link between Shakespeare, Keats, and Nietzsche, and over-all well-preparedness to handle things like global warming and economic fracturing, requires some extrapolation, some fleshing out. Or at least it ought to require as much: There is some chance that, as Barbara Ehrenreich suggests, the Arts programs can keep on advertising the study of Shakespeare as miraculously ideal for attending to the student's soul AND his/her career needs (who'd a thunk, eh?) AND now our collective need to save society from itself (this is a bit of a new one -- allowing you some room to de-emphasize the ideal career prep bit), and actually serve employers rather well -- they want and need intelligent enough, tractable recruits, in loads of debt and desperately in need of reassurance, to reliably be counted on to think themselves the world's saviors, while dutifully towing the party line.