Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Remarks for the Lamar Dodd School of Art Graduation Ceremony, May 11, 2016

I’d like to congratulate everyone here for the successful completion of this academic year.  I especially congratulate graduates of the Lamar Dodd School, their parents, and their professors.  I want to say something about the value of the degree you’re receiving, whether it is graduate or undergraduate.  A significant debate ongoing at national and state levels has to do with the notion that colleges and universities should be teaching work skills—how to write and communicate, solve problems, compute, and so on.  The implication is that other forms of knowledge, say, those in the arts and humanities, are less important and nonessential. This notion is founded on a major misunderstanding of the goals of higher education.  The primary goal of higher education is not to train you for a job—though I do not mean to underestimate the importance of getting one.  It is to equip you to be a fully functioning, independent, critically thinking, creative citizen of a troubled world, a person who can make smart decisions, who understands the contexts of our world, who can help effect change.  It happens that graduates so trained are highly qualified to find jobs.

Artists, art historians, and art educators create and produce work that contributes to the higher needs and values of our culture.  Whatever you do in your life, your education in the Lamar Dodd School has positioned you to influence the thinking of others around you about the importance of the arts, without which our culture would be an empty, hollow shell.

And let me point out that your education in the Lamar Dodd School has trained you to solve problems, to design, to communicate with each other about your interests and your work, to write about your work.  If you decide not to enter an arts-related field, you still have these skills, which are highly valuable, and made even more so by the larger and deeper understanding of your culture and your world that your education in the Lamar Dodd School and the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences has given you.

Once again, I congratulate you all on this important occasion.

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