Graduation Weekend at the University Near Here

Sorry for the lack of timeliness on this post, but the past few days have been busy, busy, busy.

Against all odds, I found myself last weekend attending ceremonies centered around the college graduation of two members of the Salad household. This involved a lot of driving, parking, sitting, standing, walking, and waiting.

It's a huge deal, a major milestone, and I'm very proud.

Having said that, however, I'm going to immediately revert to political-crank mode, because there's nothing more irritating to those of a libertarian/conservative bent than a quick immersion in the cultural/intellectual smog of American higher education.

The first ceremony was the Honors Convocation, which (to my delight and pride) Pun Daughter was entitled to attend. It wasn't extremely exclusive, though: Names were called as the honorees filed up, across the stage, and back, and it took a good couple hours.

It kicked off with a lovely rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by a music student. Things started going a bit downhill with the opening "prayer", which didn't mention God much, but involved a lengthy quote from George Bernard Shaw, noted Fabian socialist and atheist/mystic.

In addition, we attendees endured the keynote address of about-to-be-ex-Provost Bruce Mallory. It was a mishmash: many shout-outs to the current heros of left-liberalism: John Dewey, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Francis Moore Lappé, Martin Luther King Jr. All this wrapped up in a discussion of the superior culture, early education programs, and other social structures of post-WW2 Italy, Mallory's research area. (That's why Italy is today the most prosperous and intelligent country in the world… oh, wait.)

In addition, Mallory gave "diversity" thumbs up to Sandra Day O'Connor, for her moronic decision in Grutter v. Bollinger. And also admitted that he taught a course named "Be the Change You Wish to See: Active Citizenship in a Multicultural World." (No, I didn't make that up.) Required reading therein:

  • the Seneca Falls Declaration of 1848;
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", from 1963;
  • Barack Obama's speech on race, "A More Perfect Union," from March of 2008.
If it were Sesame Street, I would have expected someone to start singing "One of these things is not like the others…"

Worse: no jokes.

The Commencement ceremony itself was more fun. Great weather, just a little cool. Again, it started with another lovely performance of the Star Spangled Banner by the (same) music student. The theme was green, green, green; Al Gore would have been ecstatic.

One of the big announcements of President Huddleston's address was that the ceremony's power was being provided by garbage: specifically, methane piped to UNH from a landfill in Rochester, NH. (This was technically not true, because I had just walked by a large trailer with a loud generator roaring on my way in; I'm pretty sure they weren't running it for laughs.)

You can watch a slick YouTube video about the "EcoLine" project here, or a cute Flash animation here (pay attention when the cows show up, there's a slight gag). EcoLine cost $49 million, and is supposed to pay for itself within 10 years, but neither figure is particularly well-publicized, which makes me skeptical about the payback. Note, if you watch the YouTube video, how deftly Paul Chamberlin (a nice guy, by the way) handwaves off the question about the project's economics.

The commencement speaker was Gary Hirshberg, CEO (or, as he says, "CE-Yo") of Stonyfield Farms. An excellent speaker: finally, we got some actually funny stuff. But the message was pretty much in line with the rest of the day. Stonyfield has made its profits on its "earth-friendly" image, organic, chemical-free, blah, blah, and we heard all about that. (Although he failed to mention that sometimes they screw up.) But he hit the normal eco-catastrophe notes about climate change, pesticides, etc. Hirshberg is a well-known Democratic activist, and Stonyfield's "Politics Down On The Farm" web page shows that it's a no-Republicans-allowed venue.

(The only time Hirshberg dissented from orthodoxy was with respect to the "locavore" gospel; he pointed out that—as far as energy usage goes—long distance transport of food is pretty efficient, so Stonyfield felt no compunction about buying ingredients from far away, blowing off local suppliers. Not surprisingly, you get a bit more skeptical about green propaganda when it impacts your green-as-in-money bottom line.)

Continuing in the green vein, one of the honorary degrees was given to Dennis Meadows, primarily in (belated) recognition for one of the classics of eco-hysteria, the Club of Rome's 1972 book, The Limits to Growth. Never mind that the specific predictions made in the book were wildly wrong. When you're in the business of scaring people in a politically correct cause, you're never simply "wrong"; it's instead claimed that you're "ahead of your time."

Perhaps making up for the Star Spangled Banner, a trio of Music Department folks (one facule, two students) did some songs in Peter, Paul, and Mary style while the graduates filed up to get their diploma covers. First up was "This Land Is Your Land" by that "cuddly old commie" Pete Seeger. But the rest of their performance was apolitical, and they did a great old Dylan song, "Don't Think Twice".

But after some more formalities, that was it, and the net total of Salad family college graduates increased by two. To repeat: I'm very proud, and hopeful that a college education really does teach kids to (at least eventually) think for themselves.

Last Modified 2009-05-28 6:02 AM EST